Chronic intermittent exposure to ayahuasca during aging does not affect memory in mice

The Quechua term ayahuasca refers to a beverage obtained from decoctions of the liana Banisteriopsis caapi with leaves of Psychotria viridis. The ritualistic use of ayahuasca is becoming a global phenomenon, with some individuals using this beverage throughout life, including in old age. Cognitive impairment is a common manifestation during aging. There are conflicting reports on the ability of some ayahuasca compounds to exert neuroprotective or neurotoxic effects that could improve or impair learning and memory. Animal models provide a relevant and accessible means of investigating the behavioral effects of ayahuasca without the environmental conditions associated with the ritualistic use of the beverage. In this study, we investigated the influence of chronic ayahuasca exposure throughout aging on the spatial reference and habituation memories of mice. Twenty-eight male c57bl/6 mice (6 months old) received ayahuasca or water (1.5 mL/kg, orally) twice a week for 12 months and were tested in the Morris water maze (MWM), open field and elevated plus maze (EPM) tasks before and after treatment. During aging, there was significant impairment in the evocation (but not acquisition) of spatial reference memory and in habituation to the open field. There was also a decrease in locomotor activity in the open field and EPM tests, whereas the anxiety parameters were unaltered. Ayahuasca treatment did not alter any of these parameters associated with aging. These findings indicate that chronic exposure to ayahuasca during aging did not affect memory in mice.