, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 178-187

The nootropic properties of ginseng saponin Rb1 are linked to effects on anxiety

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Previous studies have shown that crude ginseng extracts enhance performance on shock-motivated tasks. Whether such performance enhancements are due to memory-enhancing (nootropic) properties of ginseng, or to other non-specific effects such as an influence on anxiety has not been determined. In the present study, we evaluated both the nootropic and anxiolytic effects of the ginseng saponin Rb1. In the first experiment, 80 five-day-old male chicks received intraperitoneal injections of 0, 0.25, 2.5 or 5.0 mg/kg Rb1. Performance on a visual discrimination task was uvaluted 15 minutes, 24 and 72 hours later. Acquisition of a visual discrimination task was unaffected by drug treatment, but the number of errors was significantly reduced in the 0.25 mg/kg group during retention trials completed 24 and 72 hours after injection. Animals receiving higher dosages showed trends towards enhancement initially, but demonstrated impaired performance when tested 72 hours later. Rb1 had no effect on response rates or body weight. In the second experiment, 64 five-day-old male chicks received similar injections of Rb1 (0, 0.25, 2.5 or 5.0 mg/kg) and separation distress was evaluated 15 minutes, 24 and 72 hours later. Rb1 produced a change in separation distress that depended on the dose and environmental condition under which distress was recorded. These data suggest that Rb1 can improve memory for a visual discrimination task and that the nootropic effect may be related to changes in anxiety.