Extract of Ginkgo biloba EGb 761 has been used in the treatment of various common geriatric complaints including vertigo, short-term memory loss, hearing loss, lack of attention, vigilance and cerebral vascular disorder. Recent results suggest that it can serve as a cognitive enhancer and anti-stress buffer. It raises a possibility that EGb 761 may be involved in the fear conditioning. In this study, we used fear-potentiated startle (FPS) to evaluate the possible effects of EGb 761 on the acquisition stage of fear conditioning. Our results showed that administration of EGb 761 30 min prior to the conditioning facilitated acquisition of conditioned fear in a dose dependent manner. No significant differences had been observed in either basal startle response or shock activity. These results indicated that the facilitation effect of EGb 761 was not the result of impaired basal startle response or enhanced pain perception. Subsequent control experiment results indicated that the facilitation effect of EGb 761 on the acquisition was not due to anxiogenic effect or non-specific effect. Our data present the first evidence that EGb 761 can enhance fear memory formation rather than serve as an anti-stress buffer.
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