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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Effects of Blackberries on Motor and Cognitive Function in Aged Rats

Authors
item Shukitt-Hale, Barbara
item Cheng, Vivian - TUFTS UNIVERISTY
item Joseph, James

Submitted to: Nutritional Neuroscience
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: February 1, 2009
Publication Date: June 1, 2009
Citation: Shukitt Hale, B., Cheng, V., Joseph, J.A. 2009. Effects of Blackberries on Motor and Cognitive Function in Aged Rats. Nutritional Neuroscience.12:135-140.

Interpretive Summary: Fruits and vegetables when fed to aged animals have been shown to slow and even reverse age-related declines in moving and thinking. Increased dietary intake of berry fruit, in particular, has a positive impact on human health, performance, and disease. These effects may be due to increased antioxidant and/or anti-inflammatory levels in the brain caused by the compounds in them that give them their dark color, or by direct effect of the substance on brain communication (signaling). Thus, this study looked at the effectiveness of a blackberry-supplemented diet in reversing age-related problems in behavior and brain function. This blackberry-supplemented diet was fed to aged animals for 8 weeks; the results showed that the blackberry diet improved performance in three tests of balance and coordination. In addition, the blackberry-fed rats had better short-term memory than the control rats. This data supports previous research in which we have seen improved physical and mental performance in aged rats after supplementation with other berry fruits.

Technical Abstract: The polyphenolics in fruits and vegetables, when fed to rats from 19-21 months of age, have been shown to retard and even reverse age-related decrements in motor and cognitive performance. These effects may be the result of the polyphenols increasing antioxidant and/or anti-inflammatory levels, or by direct effects on signaling, in the brain. Increased dietary intake of berry fruit, in particular, has a positive and profound impact on human health, performance, and disease. Thus, the present study examined a 2% blackberry-supplemented diet for its effectiveness in reversing age-related deficits in behavioral and neuronal function when fed to aged (19 mo) Fischer 344 rats for 8 weeks. The results showed that the blackberry diet improved motor performance on three tasks which rely on balance and coordination: the accelerating rotarod, wire suspension, and the small plank walk. Results for the Morris water maze showed that the blackberry-fed rats had significantly greater working, or short-term, memory performance than the control rats. These data support our previous investigations in which we have seen improved motor and cognitive performance in aged rats after supplementation with other berry fruits.

Last Modified: 10/21/2014
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