12 January - 20 June 2016

Can cinnamon improve the learning ability of poor learners?

According to a mouse study published in the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology consuming cinnamon may convert poor learners to good learners. The study by neurological scientists at Rush University Medical Center report that the hippocampus of poor learners has less CREB – a protein that is vitally important to make memories – and more alpha5 a subunit of GABAA receptor or GABRA5, a protein that generates 'tonic inhibitory conductance', meaning it basically slows the brain down.

According to a mouse study published in the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology consuming cinnamon may convert poor learners to good learners.  The study by neurological scientists at Rush University Medical Center report that the hippocampus of poor learners has less CREB – a protein that is vitally important to make memories – and more alpha5 a subunit of GABAA receptor or GABRA5, a protein that generates 'tonic inhibitory conductance', meaning it basically slows the brain down. Cinnamon is metabolised into sodium benzoate (NaB), a food additive and an approved FDA drug for hyperammonemia. Levels of NaB increase in different parts of the brain after cinnamon intake. 

Pahan et al. carried out a number of tests using 8-10 week old mice.  The team treated male mice with Ceylon cinnamon (50 mg/kg body wt/d) and NaB (50 mg/kg body wt/d) for 30 days followed by monitoring memory and learning and analysis of the hippocampus.  Sodium formate (NaFO)
was used as a negative control of NaB (a control which was expected to have no response).  Another control group received only methylcellulose, the substance that the cinnamon was mixed with to form a solution.

Tests consisted of using a Barnes maze, a standard elevated circular maze consisting of 20 holes and training the mice to find a tunnel under a hole, which contained coloured food chips. The scientists also used T Maze experiments to train the mice and to measure learning ability based on the number of times the animal consumed the food reward. 

Pahan et al. split the mice into good and poor performers based on Barnes circular maze test results and found that levels of CREB were much higher in the hippocampus of good learning mice than poor learning mice.  They investigated whether a month treatment of NaB and cinnamon itself followed by Barnes maze training could improve the learning ability of the poor learning mice.  They found that in poor learning mice, cinnamon and NaB enhanced CREB and increased levels of proteins in the hippocampus to a level very similar to that found in good learning mice. The team also investigated spatial memory of poor learners after cinnamon and NaB treatment.  Before treatment Pahan et al. report that the poorer learning mice exhibited more latency and greater number of errors in the T maze test compared to good learners.  However, after treatment memory had significantly improved for the poorer learning mice although cinnamon treatment did not further improve T maze functions of good learning mice compared to untreated good learning ones. 

Pahan is quoted in a press release as saying “We have successfully used cinnamon to reverse biochemical, cellular and anatomical changes that occur in the brains of mice with poor learning.” Previous research by the team has found, using a mouse model, that cinnamon can reverse changes in the brains of mice with Parkinson’s disease.  The team note that not all cinnamon is equal.  On analysis, Ceylon cinnamon has been found by the researchers to be purer than Chinese cinnamon which contains coumarin, a hepatoxic (liver damaging) molecule. 

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