Aging is thought to impair prefrontal cortical (PFC) structure-sensitive cognitive functions and flexibility, such as working memory and reversal learning. A traditional Japanese medicine, yokukansan (YKS), is frequently used to treat age-related neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease in Japan, but its pharmacological properties have not been elucidated. The present study was designed to examine whether YKS improves age-related cognitive deficits using aged rats. YKS was administered to 21-month-old rats for 3 months. The ability to learn initially a reward rule for a T-maze discrimination task (initial learning) was examined in young control (4-month-old), aged control (24-month-old) and YKS-treated aged (24-month-old) rats. Subsequently, working memory and reversal learning were examined in delayed alternation and reversal discrimination T-maze tasks, respectively. Locomotor activity was also measured in new environments. Although performance accuracy in the initial learning procedure did not differ among any experimental groups, accuracy in the delayed alternation task was significantly decreased in aged rats compared to young rats. Aged rats also showed significant decreases in accuracy in the reversal discrimination task. YKS treatment significantly ameliorated the age-related decreases in accuracy in the delayed alternation and reversal discrimination tasks. The ameliorative effects of YKS on impaired delayed alternation performance were reduced by intracranial infusions of a dopamine D1 receptor antagonist, SCH 23390, into the prelimbic cortical region of the PFC, and the YKS effects on impaired reversal learning were done by the infusions into the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). Locomotor activity did not change in any experimental group. Thus, YKS ameliorated age-related impairments of working memory and reversal learning, which might be mediated by a dopaminergic mechanism in the PFC structure. These investigations provide information important for the treatment of brain dysfunctions in the elderly people.
|Number of pages||11|
|Publication status||Published - 17-03-2011|
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