Licorice root components mimic estrogens in an object location task but not an object recognition task

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Abstract

This study investigated the efficacy of components of licorice root to alter performance on two different recognition tasks, a hippocampus-sensitive metric change in object location (MCOL) task and a striatum-sensitive double object recognition (DOR) task. Isoliquiritigenin (ISL), licorice root extract (LRE), and whole licorice root powder (LRP) were assessed. Young adult female rats were ovariectomized (OVX) and exposed to ISL, LRE or LRP at 0.075%, 0.5% or 5% respectively in the diet. An estradiol group was included as a positive control based on our prior findings. Rats were allowed to explore two objects for three 5-min study trials (separated by 3-min intervals) before a fourth 5-min test trial where the objects were moved closer together (MCOL task) or replaced with two new objects (DOR task). Rats typically habituate to the objects across the three study trials. An increase in object exploration time in the test trial suggests the rat detected the change. Estradiol improved MCOL performance and impaired DOR performance, similar to previously shown effects of estradiol and other estrogens, which tend to improve learning and memory on hippocampus-sensitive tasks and impair striatum-sensitive cognition. LRP had no effect on recognition while exposure to ISL and LRE improved MCOL performance. Exposure to ISL, LRE and LRP failed to attenuate DOR, contrary to effects of estradiol shown here and to previous reports in young-adult OVX rats. These findings suggest components of licorice root may prove to be effective therapies targeting memory enhancement without unintended deleterious cognitive effects.

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