Background: Centella asiatica (CeA) is a small perennial herbaceous creeper, growing in moist soil belonging to the umbelliferae family. In Ayurvedic medicine, CeA is popular as a brain tonic to promote brain growth and enhance memory. In addition to its memory enhancing and anxiolytic effects it also has anti-thrombotic activity, antibacterial effects, antinociceptive and anti inflammatory properties. However its neuroprotective effect has not been reported so far. In the present study the neuroprotective effect of CeA leaf extract on hippocampal CA3 neurons was investigated. Materials and Methods: Three months old albino mice were divided into four groups. Group (i) was normal control, Group (ii) was saline control, Group (iii) was stress group, Group (iv) was stress + CeA treated group. Group (iii) mice were stressed in a wire mesh restrainer for 6 hours/day for 6 weeks. Group (iv) mice were also stressed like group (iii) but they received orally CeA leaf extract throughout the stress period. After 6 weeks, brain was removed, hippocampus was dissected and processed for Golgi staining. Hippocampal neurons were traced using camera lucida focused at 400X magnification. The concentric circle method of Sholl was used to quantify the dendrites. Results: There was a decrease in the number of dendritic branching points and dendritic intersections in the hippocampal CA3 neurons in group (iii). However, there was a sharp contrast observation in group (iv) which was subjected to restraint and treated with CeA leaf extract. Conclusion: CeA leaf extract has neuroprotective effect against the stress induced neuronal atrophy in mice.
Key words: Restraint stress, dendritic branching points and dendritic intersections, hippocampus.