An ontogenic study of the behavioral effects of chronic intermittent exposure to ayahuasca in mice

Ayahuasca is a beverage obtained from decoctions of the Banisteriopsis caapi plus Psychotria viridis. In religious contexts, ayahuasca is used by different age groups. However, little is known of the effects of ayahuasca during ontogenic development, particularly with regard to the functional characteristics of the central nervous system. Animal models are useful for studying the ontogenic effects of ayahuasca because they allow exclusion of the behavioral influence associated with the ritualistic use. We investigated the effects of exposure to ayahuasca (1.5 mL/kg, orally, twice a week) on memory and anxiety in C57BL/6 mice, with the post-natal day (PND) being used as the ontogenic criterion for classification: childhood (PND21 to PND35), adolescence (PND35 to PND63), adulthood (PND90-PND118), childhood-adolescence (PND21 to PND63), childhood-adulthood (PND21 to PND118) and adolescence-adulthood (PND35 to PND118). One day after the last ayahuasca exposure, the mice were subjected to the Morris water maze (MWM), open field and elevated plus maze tasks (EPM). Ayahuasca did not affect locomotion in the open field or open arms exploration in the EPM, but increased the risk assessment behavior in the childhood group. Ayahuasca did not cause any change in acquisition of spatial reference memory in the MWM task, but decreased the time spent on the platform quadrant during the test session in the adolescence group. These results suggest that, in mice, exposure to ayahuasca in childhood and adolescence promoted anxiety and memory impairment, respectively. However, these behavioral changes were not long-lasting since they were not observed in the childhood-adulthood and adolescence-adulthood groups.