The lion’s mane mushroom, for one, has long had a reputation for various mental health benefits, with recent research supporting its potential in reducing risk for depression or limiting damage from Alzheimer’s disease.
In a new study conducted by an international team of scientists, researchers identified compounds in the lion’s mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) – an edible fungus species also known as yamabushitake or hou tou gu – that could boost nerve growth and enhance memory.
“Extracts from these so-called lion’s mane mushrooms have been used in traditional medicine in Asian countries for centuries, but we wanted to scientifically determine their potential effect on brain cells,” says lead author Frédéric Meunier from the Queensland Brain Institute.
The researchers isolated a compound from the lion’s mane mushroom known as N-de phenylethyl isohericerin, along with its hydrophobic derivative called hericene A, and tested their effects on cultured neurons from rat embryos.
The extracts had a “clear neurotrophic effect,” they write, resulting in doubly long axons – the threadlike links that conduct impulses away from a neuron – and more than triple the number of neurites, or small projections from a neuron that can grow into fully functional axons or dendrites.
“Laboratory tests measured the neurotrophic effects of compounds isolated from Hericium erinaceus on cultured brain cells, and surprisingly we found that the active compounds promote neuron projections, extending and connecting to other neurons,” Meunier says.
“Using super-resolution microscopy, we found the mushroom extract and its active components largely increase the size of growth cones,” he adds, “which are particularly important for brain cells to sense their environment and establish new connections with other neurons in the brain.” (Full Story)