The effects of an extract of Ginkgo biloba, EGb 761, on cognitive behavior and longevity in the rat.


Winter JC




Physiol Behav


Extracts of the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree are widely used throughout the world for their purportedly beneficial effects on brain function. In the present investigation, a standardized extract, EGb 761, was self-administered orally by male Fischer 344 rats that were then tested in an eight-arm radial maze. The tasks employed were a) continuous learning and b) delayed nonmatching to position. Chronic postsession administration of EGb 761 at a dose of 50 mg/kg had no effect on continuous learning but the same dose given presession resulted in a trend toward fewer sessions to reach criterion performance as well as fewer errors. In addition, it was observed that rats chronically treated with EGb 761 lived significantly longer than vehicle-treated subjects. In a delayed nonmatching to position task using a 30-min delay in 20-month-old rats. EGb 761 administered presession produced a dose-related decrease in total, retroactive, and proactive errors; a repeated-measures design was used, with subjects serving as their own controls. Following the dose-response determination, the group, now 26 months of age, was divided in two with half receiving EGb 761 at a dose of 200 mg/kg presession and the other half vehicle (sweetened condensed milk). A statistically significant positive effect of treatment with EGb-761 was observed. The present data are consistent with the beneficial effects on cognitive performance which have been widely reported in human subjects. In addition, the data suggest that the methods employed, i.e., continuous learning and delayed nonmatching to position tasks in aged rats, are capable of detecting drugs of possible value in the treatment of human cognitive impairment. Finally, the present results encourage a search for the pharmacologically active principles of EGb 761 and for their mechanisms of action.