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Effects of the active constituents of Crocus sativus L. crocins and their combination with memantine on recognition memory in rats

Crocus sativus L., is a plant cultivated in many countries of the world. Crocins are among the active constituents ofC. sativus and their implication in cognition has been proposed. The present study was designed to investigate in the rat the effects of crocins on distinct recognition memory components (encoding, storage and retrieval).Subsequently, the potential use of crocins as adjunctive agents for the treatment of memory disorders was examined. Thus, the effects exerted by a combination of subthreshold doses of crocins and memantine on recognition memory were evaluated. To assess the effects of compounds on memory, the novel object-recognition task(NORT) was used. In a preliminary study, the influence of the retention time (the delay between the two trials) on the performance of rats was assessed. Rats’ recognition memory abilities remained intact up to 6 h, but were extinguished when a delay of 24 h was utilized. Crocins, at any dose tested (5, 15, and 30 mg/kg), did not affect rats’ performance, whereas administration of higher doses (15and 30 mg/kg) reversed delay-dependent deficits in theNORT. The combination of subthreshold doses of crocins(5 mg/kg) and memantine (3 mg/kg) did not influence the performance, but counteracted delay-dependent deficits in the NORT. These findings suggest that crocins counteract natural forgetting and may modulate different aspects of recognition memory, and that the combined use of crocins and memantine might represent a novel strategy to treat memory disorders