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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: The Effects of Tart Cherries on Age-Related Changes in Behavior and Inflammation

Location: Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging

2013 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
To illustrate the putative role of tart cherry in nutritional interventions on brain aging and behavior. This project will contribute to fundamental knowledge of the roles of cherry polyphenolics in reducing inflammatory stress signaling and the resulting cognitive, motor and neuronal deficits. Also, to determine the role of dietary cherry in altering autophagy, a cellular repair mechanism, in promoting protein homeostasis during aging. Importantly, this information can then be utilized to show that the addition of tart cherry to the diet may increase the “health span” in aging, and possibly slow the aging process.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
Rats will initially be purchased and maintained on a diet containing 2% tart cherry. Rats will then complete a battery of motor tests as well as cognitive testing in the Morris water maze. Following behavioral testing, areas of the rats’ brains, specific to learning, memory, and motor coordination, will be examined for a variety of inflammatory biomarkers using immunohistochemistry. Brains will also be evaluated for a variety of proteins involved in autophagy. Finally, we will determine whether the efficacies of cherry supplementation in the behavioral assays are associated with enhanced resistance to oxidative stressors and alterations in autophagy markers.


3.Progress Report:

In this effort the effects of tart cherry dietary supplementation (2% cherry extract in the diet for 8 weeks) were examined. Aged rats show decrements in performance on motor and cognitive tasks that require the use of spatial learning and memory. In previous studies, we have shown the beneficial effects of various berry fruits (blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries) for their effectiveness in reversing age-related deficits in behavioral and neuronal function when fed to rats from 19-21 months of age. Tart cherries have been shown in several studies to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and these effects may be due to their high polyphenolic levels. Thus, the present studies were carried out to determine if tart cherries, added to the diet of 19 mo Fischer 344 rats at 2% for 8 weeks, would be efficacious in reversing the deleterious effects of aging on cognitive behavior. Results showed that the cherry diet improved working (short-term) memory in the Morris water maze, compared to the control group. However, reference (long-term) memory was better in the control group, possibly because they were not using spatial strategies to solve the maze.


Last Modified: 4/19/2014
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