Plant-derived flavanol (-)epicatechin enhances angiogenesis and retention of spatial memory in mice

Henriette Van Praag, Melanie J. Lucero, Gene W. Yeo, Kimberly Stecker, Neema Heivand, Chunmei Zhao, Ed Yip, Mia Afanador, Hagen Schroeter, John Hammerstone, Fred H. Gage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

225 Scopus citations


Diet and exercise have a profound impact on brain function. In particular, natural nutrients found in plants may influence neuronal survival and plasticity. Here, we tested whether consumption of a plant-derived flavanol, (-)epicatechin, enhances cognition in sedentary or wheel-running female C57BL/6 mice. Retention of spatial memory in the water maze was enhanced by ingestion of (-)epicatechin, especially in combination with exercise. Improved spatial memory was associated with increased angiogenesis and neuronal spine density, but not newborn cell survival, in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus. Moreover, microarray analysis showed upregulation of genes associated with learning and downregulation of markers of neurodegeneration in the hippocampus. Together, our data show that ingestion of a single flavanol improves spatial memory retention in adult mammals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5869-5878
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number22
StatePublished - May 30 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • (-)Epicatechin
  • Angiogenesis
  • Flavanols
  • Learning and memory
  • Morris water maze
  • Spines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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