A complex dietary supplement augments spatial learning, brain mass, and mitochondrial electron transport chain activity in aging mice was published online in late 2011 and then in a journal in early 2013. I’ve linked it here from the National Institutes of Health.


We developed a complex dietary supplement designed to offset five key mechanisms of aging and tested its effectiveness in ameliorating age-related cognitive decline using a visually cued Morris water maze test. All younger mice (<1 year old) learned the task well. However, older untreated mice (>1 year) were unable to learn the maze even after 5 days, indicative of strong cognitive decline at older ages. In contrast, no cognitive decline was evident in older supplemented mice, even when ∼2 years old. Supplemented older mice were nearly 50% better at locating the platform than age-matched controls. Brain weights of supplemented mice were significantly greater than controls, even at younger ages. Reversal of cognitive decline in activity of complexes III and IV by supplementation was significantly associated with cognitive improvement, implicating energy supply as one possible mechanism. These results represent proof of principle that complex dietary supplements can provide powerful benefits for cognitive function and brain aging.”

First a few notes on mice.  These lab mice live to be about 2 years old, which is pretty darn old for a mouse and all the more reason to be impressed by how well the treated mice fared in the testing.  These are also transgenic mice bred to develop Alzheimer’s like symptoms.

The Morris water maze test is kind of like it sounds, but instead of visible walls to the maze the mouse is swimming in a round tank looking for platforms hidden just under the surface.  The mouse gets visual cues so that the next time they are dropped in the water they can get out in a hurry.  Unless of course they can’t remember the last time. You can see pictures if you click the link.

So here’s what the researchers did.  Picture two groups of mice.  The first group is made up of perfectly normal mice and it is called the Control.  The second group of transgenic mice are guaranteed to develop Alzheimer’s-like symptoms.  This second group is split into two groups that I will name Trans1 and Trans2.  Trans1 is left untreated.  Trans2 is given a complex dietary supplement developed by the researchers.  All three groups are tested using the water maze and compared.

The Control establishes the baseline for how well a normal mouse should perform in the water maze at any given age.  The question is how well groups Trans1 and Trans2 will perform on the test compared to each other and to the Control.

All mice performed pretty much the same until they reached one year of age.  After their first birthday party (involving cheescake I suppose) the untreated group (Trans1) began to fail miserably.  The Control chugged along with some decline, but not nearly as much as the untreated group.  The real story is how well Trans2 performed.  Remember that they were bred to lose their memory as they aged, but not only did they not suffer the same fate as their untreated brethren, but they outperformed the Control!

Other than some genetics, the three groups all experienced the same lifestyles. So diet, exercise, environment, etc were all controlled in the sense that no one group got an advantage.  The exception of course is that one group received a complex dietary supplement and that group’s members had superior cognitive function and memory.