Turmeric Reports

Curcumin Protects Against Aluminium-Induced Cognitive Dysfunction

Aluminum is not an essential mineral. Far from that, aluminum is a potent neurotoxin that has been long thought to be a possible cause of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). In fact, prolonged exposure to aluminum not only induces oxidative stress, it also increases amyloid beta levels in vivo. Current treatment for AD leaves much to be desired and deals primarily with symptoms. Thus, we are currently on the lookout for new treatments of consequence, and with fewer side effects. In a new study, the protective effect of curcumin administration against aluminum-induced cognitive dysfunction and oxidative damage in rats was studied.1*

*Other curcumin/turmeric studies have reported cognitive benefits and more (see “Getting Our Curcuminoids Is Difficult, but Worth It” in the March 2008 issue, “Solid Lipid Nanospheres for Delivering Curcuminoids” in the February 2008 issue, “Turmeric’s Curcuminoids Help Prevent Brain Plaque” in the October 2007 issue, “Turmeric Is ‘The Spice of Life’” in the November 2004 issue, “Turmeric Protects Your Brain Cells” in the July 2004 issue, and “Turmeric May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases” in the February 2002 issue.

Aluminum chloride at 100mg/kg of body weight was given to rats daily for 6 weeks. At the same time, the rats were treated with curcumin (at either 30 or 60 mg/kg) daily for 6 weeks. At the end of 3 and 6 weeks, behavioral mazes to evaluate memory and locomotion (photoactometer) were employed.

The result of chronic aluminum chloride administration was poor retention of memory as demonstrated by the Morris water maze and the elevated plus maze due to discernible oxidative damage. Aluminum also caused a significant increase in the acetylcholinesterase activity and was concentrated in tissue.

However, the administration of curcumin significantly improved memory retention in both maze tasks, while lessening oxidative damage, acetylcholinesterase activity, and aluminum tissue concentration. It is safe to say that curcumin has neuroprotective effects against aluminum-induced cognitive dysfunction and oxidative damage.

Curcumin Reverses Impaired Cognition Induced by Chronic Stress

The chronic stress that many of us experience every day induces impaired spatial cognition, along with neuroendocrine and neuroplasticity abnormalities. Can curcumin, a component of the curry spice turmeric, provide benefit for these stress-related disturbances? Previous studies have demonstrated that curcumin can reverse the chronic stress-induced behavioral deficits in what is known as “escape from an aversive stimulus.”2,3 However, the mechanism underlying its positive effects on stress-induced learning defects and associated pathologies are unfathomed.

In a new study, researchers investigated the effects of curcumin on restraint stress-induced spatial learning and memory dysfunction in a water maze task and on measures related to neuroendocrine and plasticity changes.4 The results showed that memory deficits were reversed with curcumin in a dose-dependent manner, as were stress-induced increases in serum corticosterone levels. These effects were similar to positive antidepressant imipramine. Imagine that!

Additionally, curcumin prevented adverse changes in the hippocampal neurons, where it was shown that curcumin (or imipramine) offered protection against corticosterone-induced toxicity. Furthermore, curcumin (or imipramine) blocked effects to areas and receptors activated by corticosterone.

Summarizing their conclusions, curcumin may be therapeutically potent for preventing learning and memory disturbances within certain stress models, and its neuroprotective effect was facilitated partly by normalizing the corticosterone response, resulting in the down-regulating of harmful transcription factors and receptor levels.


  1. Kumar A, Dogra S, Prakash A. Protective effect of curcumin (Curcuma longa), against aluminium toxicity: Possible behavioral and biochemical alterations in rats. Behav Brain Res 2009 Jul 16. [Epub ahead of print]
  2. Xu Y, Ku BS, Yao HY, Lin YH, Ma X, Zhang YH, Li XJ. Antidepressant effects of curcumin in the forced swim test and olfactory bulbectomy models of depression in rats. Pharmacol Biochem Behav 2005 Sep;82(1):200-6.
  3. Xu Y, Ku BS, Yao HY, Lin YH, Ma X, Zhang YH, Li XJ. The effects of curcumin on depressive-like behaviors in mice. Eur J Pharmacol 2005 Jul 25;518(1):40-6.
  4. Xu Y, Lin D, Li S, Li G, Shyamala SG, Barish PA, Vernon MM, Pan J, Ogle WO. Curcumin reverses impaired cognition and neuronal plasticity induced by chronic stress. Neuropharmacology 2009 Jun 21. [Epub ahead of print]

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