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Astaxanthin supplementation modulates cognitive function and synaptic plasticity in young and aged mice

  • Bethany Grimmig
  • Charles Hudson
  • Lauren Moss
  • Melinda Peters
  • Meena Subbarayan
  • Edwin J. Weeber
  • Paula C. BickfordEmail author
Original Article


The incidence of neurodegenerative disorders and cognitive impairment is increasing. Rising prevalence of age-related medical conditions is associated with a dramatic economic burden; therefore, developing strategies to manage these health concerns is of great public health interest. Nutritionally based interventions have shown promise in treatment of these age-associated conditions. Astaxanthin is a carotenoid with reputed neuroprotective properties in the context of disease and injury, while emerging evidence suggests that astaxanthin may also have additional biological activities relating to neurogenesis and synaptic plasticity. Here, we investigate the potential for astaxanthin to modulate cognitive function and neural plasticity in young and aged mice. We show that feeding astaxanthin to aged mice for 1 month improves performance on several hippocampal-dependent cognitive tasks and increases long-term potentiation. However, we did not observe an alteration in neurogenesis, nor did we observe a change in microglial-associated IBA1 immunostaining. This demonstrates the potential for astaxanthin to modulate neural plasticity and cognitive function in aging.


Aging Cognitive decline Inflammation Nutraceutical Neuroplasticity 





Brain-derived neurotrophic factor


Long-term potentiation


Field excitatory post synaptic potentials


Paired-pulse facilitation




Neural progenitor cell


Ionized calcium-binding adaptor protein



Funding was provided from the NIA R01 AG044919 (PCB) and the Veterans Administration I01 BX003421 (PCB).

Compliance with ethical standards


The contents of this presentation do not represent the views of the Department of Veterans Affairs or the United States Government.

Conflict of interest

PCB is the co-Founder of Natura Therapeutics, Inc., and has served on the scientific advisory board for Nutrex Hawaii.


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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. Government work and not under copyright protection in the US; foreign copyright protection may apply 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Molecular Pharmacology and PhysiologyMorsani College of Medicine, USF HealthTampaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Neurosurgery and Brain RepairMorsani College of Medicine, USF HealthTampaUSA
  3. 3.Research ServiceJames A Haley Veterans HospitalTampaUSA

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