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BACOPA MONNIERA or Brahmi has been investigated in several Indian laboratories for its neuropharmacological effects.

Malhotra and Das (1959) reported a sedative effect of glycosides named hersaponins. Aithal and Sirsi (1961) found that the alcoholic extract, and to a lesser extent, the aqueous extract of the whole plant exhibited tranquilizing effects on albino rats and dogs.

Prakash and Sirsi (1961) on the other hand, have found that the alcoholic extract of the plant and chlorpromazine improved the performance of rats in motor learning. Sinha (1971) has reported that a single dose of the glycoside hersaponin is better than peritobarbitone in facilitating acquisition and retention of brightness discrimination reaction.

It is difficult, however, to interpret these results in the context of the available known traditional claims of improving learning and memory.

Therefore, the evaluation of the traditional claims of Brahmi was initiated by investigating its effect on the acquisition, consolidation and retention of three newly acquired behavioral responses in albino rats. (Singh and Dhawan, 1977, 1982).

In spite of extensive use of Brahmi by the practitioners of Ayurveda, well-designed clinical trials to evaluate its efficacy as a memory enhancing agent have also been conducted.

The safety and tolerability of bacosides in 51 healthy human volunteers were assessed (Asthana, et al. 1996). It was found that single oral doses of 20-200 mg or 100 and 200 mg once daily for 4 weeks were safe and did not produce any reaction or side effect.

Subsequently, placebo-controlled double blind phase II clinical trials in 36 children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) were conducted with the Brahmi extract. The children received either a placebo or 50 mg of the extract twice daily for 12 weeks.

The children receiving the extract showed significant improvement in scores of several test systems and there were no side effects (unpublished data of CDRI).

Later, clinical trials were initiated in elderly cases of Age Associated Memory Impairment (AAMI) at 3 medical centers, and 30 patients completed a 16-week study at BRD Medical College, Gorakhpur.

A significant improvement in logical memory, forward digit span and paired associate learning has been observed from the fourth week onward in the group treated with the standardized extract without showing any side effect (CDRI Annual Report, 2000-2001).

Another detailed clinical trial was conducted at the Neuropharmacology Laboratory, Brain Sciences Institute, Swinburne University of Technology in Victoria, Australia in collaboration with the Neuropsychology Laboratory, School of Biophysical Science and Electrical Engineering in Victoria by Nathan et al. (2001).

In this trial, the chronic effects of Brahmi extract on memory function were examined among forty six healthy human subjects aged between 18 to 60 years.

The study was a double-blind placebo-controlled independent group design in which subjects were randomly allocated to one of the two treatment conditions, i.e. Brahmi extract (300 mg) or placebo. Neuropsychological tests were conducted pre-baseline and at 5 and 12 weeks post-drug administration. Brahmi extract significantly improved speed of visual information processing measured by the Inspection Time (IT; Taylor and Creelman 1967), learning rate and memory consolidation measured by Auditory Verbal Learning Test (AVLT; Roy, 1964), and state anxiety examined using Strait-Trait Anxiety Inventory (Spielberger, 1979).

The results of the clinical trial suggested that Brahmi extract improved higher order cognitive processes that are critically dependent on the input of information from our environment such as learning and memory.

Another study to measure the effect of Brahmi extract on human memory was conducted by Roodenrys, et al. (2002). Seventy six adults aged between 40 and 65 years volunteered for the double-blind randomized, placebo-controlled study in which various memory functions were tested and levels of anxiety measured in three testing sessions: one prior to the trial, one after three months on the trial, and one six weeks after the completion of the trial.

The results showed a significant effect of Brahmi on the test for the retention of new information. In the follow-up tests, it was found that the rate of learning was unaffected, suggesting that Brahmi decreases the rate of forgetting newly acquired information.


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