Anxiety levels in rats are correlated with interleukin-2 (IL-2) levels in the brain. The aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of dioscorea (wild yam), a Chinese medicine, on emotional behavior and IL-2 levels in the brain of ovariectomized (OVX) rats.
One month after ovariectomy, female Wistar rats were screened in the elevated plus-maze (EPM) test to measure anxiety levels and divided into low anxiety (LA) and high anxiety (HA) groups, which were then given dioscorea (250, 750, or 1500 mg/kg/day) by oral gavage for 27 days and were tested in the EPM on day 23 of administration and in the forced swim test (FST) on days 24 and 25, then 3 days later, the brain was removed and IL-2 levels measured.
Compared to sham-operated rats, anxiety behavior in the EPM was increased in half of the OVX rats. After chronic dioscorea treatment, a decrease in anxiety and IL-2 levels was observed in the HA OVX rats. Despair behavior in the FST was inhibited by the highest dosage of dioscorea.
These results show that OVX-induced anxiety and changes in neuroimmunological function in the cortex are reversed by dioscorea treatment. Furthermore, individual differences need to be taken into account when psychoneuroimmunological issues are measured and the EPM is a useful tool for determining anxiety levels when examining anxiety-related issues.