Cognitive deficits are a core feature of patients with methamphetamine (METH) abuse. It has been reported that repeated METH treatment impairs long-term recognition memory in the novel object recognition test (NORT) in mice. Recent studies indicate that silibinin, a flavonoid derived from the herb milk thistle, has potent neuroprotective effects in cell cultures and several animal models of neurological diseases. However, its effect on the cognitive deficit induced by METH remains unclear. In the present study, we attempt to clarify the effect of silibinin on impairments of recognition memory caused by METH in mice. Mice were co-administered silibinin with METH for 7 days and then cognitive function was assessed by NORT after 7-day withdrawal. Tissue levels of dopamine and serotonin as well as their metabolites in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus were measured 1 day after NORT. Silibinin dose-dependently ameliorated the impairment of recognition memory caused by METH treatment in mice. Silibinin significantly attenuated the decreases in the dopamine content of the prefrontal cortex and serotonin content of the hippocampus caused by METH treatment. We also found a correlation between the recognition values and dopamine and serotonin contents of the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. The effect of silibinin on cognitive impairment may be associated with an amelioration of decreases in dopamine and serotonin levels in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, respectively. These results suggest that silibinin may be useful as a pharmacological tool to investigate the mechanisms of METH-induced cognitive impairments.
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