Objective: The purpose of this study was to explore the role of curcumin (Cur) in isoflurane (ISO)-induced learning and memory dysfunction in Sprague-Dawley rats and further elucidate the mechanism of the protective effect produced by Cur. Methods: Rat models of cognitive impairment were established by inhaling 3% ISO. The Morris water maze test was used to assess the cognitive function of rats. ELISA and qRT-PCR were used to analyze the protein levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines and expression levels of miR-181a-5p, respectively. Results: Cur significantly improved the ISO-induced cognitive dysfunction in rats and alleviated the ISO-induced neuroinflammation. miR-181a-5p was overexpressed in ISO-induced rats, while Cur treatment significantly reduced the expression of miR-181a-5p. Overexpression of miR-181a-5p promoted the cognitive impairment and the release of inflammatory cytokines and reversed the neuroprotective effect of Cur. Conclusion: Cur has a protective effect on ISO-induced cognitive dysfunction, which may be achieved by regulating the expression of miR-181a-5p.

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