Date of Defense


Date of Graduation




First Advisor

Lisa Baker

Second Advisor

John Spitsbergen


Hericium erinaceus, brain derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), neurogenesis, radial arm maze (RAM), rodents, memory


Hericium erinaceus, commonly known as Lion’s Mane mushroom, is a fungal fruiting body historically consumed for its medicinal properties. Scientific research has identified several bioactive compounds within this and other medicinal fungi purportedly responsible for their positive health promoting effects. Two classes of active compounds within the fruiting body and mycelium of H. erinaceus, hericenones and erinacines, increase brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein marker associated with neurogenesis and neural plasticity. Given that reduced BDNF is associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease as well as age-related cognitive decline, dietary supplements with H. erinaceus may be a viable complementary treatment to improve age-related cognitive decline. Few published empirical studies have utilized objective behavioral measures to evaluate the putative pro-cognitive effects of H. erinaceus. The present study investigated the effects of a dietary supplement containing H. erinaceus dried powder on the acquisition and subsequent reversal of a spatial learning task in elder rats. Thirty eight-month-old male Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly assigned to three treatment groups and received powdered H. erinaceus (0, 100, 1000 mg) mixed with their daily food rations for six weeks prior to the onset and for the duration of radial arm maze training sessions. Eight animals in each group were assessed for maze acquisition, with one trial per day for 23 days in which four of eight arms were baited. Following maze acquisition, a reversal task was implemented for 14 days in which the opposite four arms were baited. Working memory errors (repeat arm entries) and reference memory (non-baited arm entries) were scored. No statistically significant differences were observed among the three treatment groups in task acquisition or reversal. Although the present results failed to support pro-cognitive effects of dietary H. erinaceus treatment, additional analyses are ongoing to determine if this treatment altered BNDF expression in the brain.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Restricted

Restricted to Campus until


Available for download on Wednesday, June 18, 2025