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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Related Topics


Location: Boston, Massachusetts

2012 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
To assess the benefits of A. bisporus mushrooms for improving cognitive and motor function in aging. We hope to show that mushroom supplementation attenuates specific cognitive deficits normally associated with aging. This information can then be utilized to show that the addition of mushrooms to the diet can increase "health span" in aging, and possibly slow the aging process by reducing the uincidence and/or delaying the onset of debilitating neurodegenerative disease.

1b. Approach (from AD-416):
The effects of dietary supplementation with graded doses of raw white button mustrooms (A. bisporum) will be examined in the rats via age-sensitive motor behaviors and cognitive behaviors that are selective for reference and working memories. Following 12 weeks of dietary mushroom supplementation, aged rats will undergo behavioral testing with age-sensitive tests of psychomotor and cognitive behavior. These behaviors will be assessed using the Morris water maze and tests of motor funciton. All of these tests have been validated as being age sensitive (e.g., demonstrated a significant decline as a function of age). These studies should serve to elaborate further the beneficial effects of mushrooms on behavior in aging.

3. Progress Report:
The effects of dietary supplementation with graded doses (0%, 0.5%, 1.0 %, 2.0%, or 5% of the diet) of raw white button mushrooms were examined. Aged rats show decrements in performance on motor and cognitive tasks that require the use of spatial learning and memory. In previous studies, we have shown the beneficial effects of several vegetables and fruits for their effectiveness in reversing age-related deficits in behavioral and neuronal function when fed to rats from 19-21 months of age. The presence of a number of bioactive compounds (e.g., choline; ergosterol, the precursor to vitamin D2; folate) implicates the common mushroom (Agaricus bisporus) as a potential nutritional therapeutic to curtail brain aging. However, the ability of mushroom supplementation in improving cognitive function has not been fully evaluated. Thus, the present studies were carried out to determine if mushrooms, fed in the rat diet for 12 weeks, would be efficacious in reversing the deleterious effects of aging on motor and cognitive behavior in 19 mo Fischer 344 rats. Mushrooms were processed and freeze-dried for inclusion into the diet; the mushroom powder was incorporated into the rat pellets at doses equivalent to 0, ¼, ½, 1, or 2.5 daily servings for humans. Following supplementation, rats were tested in the Morris Water maze, a test for spatial learning and memory, and were assessed with a battery of motor tests sensitive to age-related declines. We are currently analyzing the behavioral data and processing the brains to evaluate indices of neuronal signaling and the autophagy (removal of cellular debris) function. These markers should provide mechanisms by which mushroom may mitigate age-related behavioral declines. These studies should serve to elaborate further the beneficial effects of mushrooms in aging.

4. Accomplishments

Last Modified: 06/27/2017
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