Skip to main content

The beneficial effects of berries on cognition, motor behaviour and neuronal function in ageing

  • Barbara Shukitt-Hale (a1), Donna F. Bielinski (a1), Francis C. Lau (a1), Lauren M. Willis (a1), Amanda N. Carey (a1) and James A. Joseph (a1)...

Previously, it has been shown that strawberry (SB) or blueberry (BB) supplementations, when fed to rats from 19 to 21 months of age, reverse age-related decrements in motor and cognitive performance. We have postulated that these effects may be the result of a number of positive benefits of the berry polyphenols, including decreased stress signalling, increased neurogenesis, and increased signals involved in learning and memory. Thus, the present study was carried out to examine these mechanisms in aged animals by administering a control, 2 % SB- or 2 % BB-supplemented diet to aged Fischer 344 rats for 8 weeks to ascertain their effectiveness in reversing age-related deficits in behavioural and neuronal function. The results showed that rats consuming the berry diets exhibited enhanced motor performance and improved cognition, specifically working memory. In addition, the rats supplemented with BB and SB diets showed increased hippocampal neurogenesis and expression of insulin-like growth factor 1, although the improvements in working memory performance could not solely be explained by these increases. The diverse polyphenolics in these berry fruits may have additional mechanisms of action that could account for their relative differences in efficacy.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      The beneficial effects of berries on cognition, motor behaviour and neuronal function in ageing
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      The beneficial effects of berries on cognition, motor behaviour and neuronal function in ageing
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      The beneficial effects of berries on cognition, motor behaviour and neuronal function in ageing
      Available formats
Corresponding author
* Corresponding author: B. Shukitt-Hale, fax +1 617 556 3299, email
Hide All

In memory of James A. Joseph, our valued colleague and friend, who passed away while this paper was being written.

Hide All
1. Kluger A, Gianutsos JG, Golomb J, et al. (1997) Patterns of motor impairment in normal aging, mild cognitive decline, and early Alzheimer’s disease. J Gerontol 52, 2839.
2. Joseph JA, Bartus RT, Clody D, et al. (1983) Psychomotor performance in the senescent rodent: reduction of deficits via striatal dopamine receptor up-regulation. Neurobiol Aging 4, 313319.
3. Shukitt-Hale B (1999) The effects of aging and oxidative stress on psychomotor and cognitive behavior. Age (Omaha) 22, 917.
4. Hauss-Wegrzyniak B, Vannucchi MG & Wenk GL (2000) Behavioral and ultrastructural changes induced by chronic neuroinflammation in young rats. Brain Res 859, 157166.
5. Hauss-Wegrzyniak B, Vraniak P & Wenk GL (1999) The effects of a novel NSAID on chronic neuroinflammation are age dependent. Neurobiol Aging 20, 305313.
6. Halliwell B (1994) Free radicals and antioxidants: a personal view. Nutr Rev 52, 253265.
7. Harman D (1981) The aging process. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 78, 71247128.
8. Yu BP (1994) Cellular defenses against damage from reactive oxygen species [published erratum appears in Physiol Rev 1995 75(1):preceding 1]. Physiol Rev 74, 139162.
9. Olanow CW (1992) An introduction to the free radical hypothesis in Parkinson’s disease. Ann Neurol 32, S2S9.
10. Carney JM, Smith CD, Carney AN, et al. (1994) Aging- and oxygen-induced modifications in brain biochemistry and behavior. Ann N Y Acad Sci 738, 4453.
11. Gilissen EP, Jacobs RE & Allman JM (1999) Magnetic resonance microscopy of iron in the basal forebrain cholinergic structures of the aged mouse lemur. J Neurol Sci 168, 2127.
12. Olanow CW (1993) A radical hypothesis for neurodegeneration. Trends Neurosci 16, 439444.
13. Joseph JA, Denisova N, Fisher D, et al. (1998) Age-related neurodegeneration and oxidative stress: putative nutritional intervention. Neurol Clin 16, 747755.
14. Joseph JA, Denisova N, Fisher D, et al. (1998) Membrane and receptor modifications of oxidative stress vulnerability in aging. Nutritional considerations. Ann N Y Acad Sci 854, 268276.
15. Joseph J, Shukitt-Hale B, Denisova NA, et al. (2001) Copernicus revisited: amyloid beta in Alzheimer’s disease. Neurobiol Aging 22, 131146.
16. Rozovsky I, Finch CE & Morgan TE (1998) Age-related activation of microglia and astrocytes: in vitro studies show. Neurobiol Aging 19, 97103.
17. McGeer PL & McGeer EG (1995) The inflammatory response system of the brain: implications for therapy of Alzheimer and other neurodegenerative diseases. Brain Res Brain Res Rev 21, 195218.
18. Volpato S, Guralnik JM, Ferrucci L, et al. (2001) Cardiovascular disease, interleukin-6, and risk of mortality in older women: the women’s health and aging study. Circulation 103, 947953.
19. Joseph JAD, NA, Youdim KA, Bielinski D, et al. (2001) Neuronal environment and age-related neurodegenerative disease: nutritional modification. In Annual Review of Gerontology and Geriatrics, Focus on Modern Topics in the Biology of Aging, vol. 21, pp. 195235 [VJ Cristofalo and A Richard, editor]. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Co.
20. Stevenson DE & Hurst RD (2007) Polyphenolic phytochemicals – just antioxidants or much more? Cell Mol Life Sci 64, 29002916.
21. Joseph JA, Shukitt-Hale B, Denisova NA, et al. (1999) Reversals of age-related declines in neuronal signal transduction, cognitive, and motor behavioral deficits with blueberry, spinach, or strawberry dietary supplementation. J Neurosci 19, 81148121.
22. Joseph JA, Shukitt-Hale B, Denisova NA, et al. (1998) Long-term dietary strawberry, spinach, or vitamin E supplementation retards the onset of age-related neuronal signal-transduction and cognitive behavioral deficits. J Neurosci 18, 80478055.
23. Shukitt-Hale B, Carey AN, Jenkins D, et al. (2007) Beneficial effects of fruit extracts on neuronal function and behavior in a rodent model of accelerated aging. Neurobiol Aging 28, 11871194.
24. Goyarzu P, Malin DH, Lau FC, et al. (2004) Blueberry supplemented diet: effects on object recognition memory and nuclear factor-kappa B levels in aged rats. Nutr Neurosci 7, 7583.
25. Malin DH, Lee DR, Goyarzu P, et al. (2010) Short-term blueberry-enriched diet prevents and reverses object recognition memory loss in aging rats. Nutrition 27, 338342.
26. Joseph JA, Arendash G, Gordon M, et al. (2003) Blueberry supplementation enhances signaling and prevents behavioral deficits in an Alzheimer disease model. Nutr Neurosci 6, 153162.
27. Casadesus G, Shukitt-Hale B, Stellwagen HM, et al. (2004) Modulation of hippocampal plasticity and cognitive behavior by short-term blueberry supplementation in aged rats. Nutr Neurosci 7, 309316.
28. Joseph JA, Bielinski DF & Fisher DR (2010) Blueberry treatment antagonizes C-2 ceramide-induced stress signaling in muscarinic receptor-transfected COS-7 cells. J Agri Food Chem 58, 33803392.
29. Joseph JA, Shukitt-Hale B, Brewer GJ, et al. (2010) Differential protection among fractionated blueberry polyphenolic families against DA-, Abeta(42)- and LPS-induced decrements in Ca(2+) buffering in primary hippocampal cells. J Agri Food Chem 58, 81968204.
30. Williams CM, El Mohsen MA, Vauzour D, et al. (2008) Blueberry-induced changes in spatial working memory correlate with changes in hippocampal CREB phosphorylation and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels. Free Radic Biol Med 45, 295305.
31. Rendeiro C, Vauzour D, Kean RJ, et al. (2012) Blueberry supplementation induces spatial memory improvements and region-specific regulation of hippocampal BDNF mRNA expression in young rats. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 223, 319330.
32. Joseph JA, Fisher DR & Carey AN (2004) Fruit extracts antagonize Abeta- or DA-induced deficits in Ca2+ flux in M1-transfected COS-7 cells. J Alzheimers Dis 6, 403411; discussion 443–409.
33. Galli RL, Bielinski DF, Szprengiel A, et al. (2006) Blueberry supplemented diet reverses age-related decline in hippocampal HSP70 neuroprotection. Neurobiol Aging 27, 344350.
34. Shukitt-Hale B, Lau FC, Carey AN, et al. (2008) Blueberry polyphenols attenuate kainic acid-induced decrements in cognition and alter inflammatory gene expression in rat hippocampus. Nutr Neurosci 11, 172182.
35. Duffy KB, Spangler EL, Devan BD, et al. (2008) A blueberry-enriched diet provides cellular protection against oxidative stress and reduces a kainate-induced learning impairment in rats. Neurobiol Aging 29, 16801689.
36. Andres-Lacueva C, Shukitt-Hale B, Galli RL, et al. (2005) Anthocyanins in aged blueberry-fed rats are found centrally and may enhance memory. Nutr Neurosci 8, 111120.
37. Youdim KA, Shukitt-Hale B, Martin A, et al. (2000) Short-term dietary supplementation of blueberry polyphenolics: beneficial effects on aging brain performance and peripheral tissue function. Nutr Neurosci 3, 383397.
38. Shukitt-Hale B, Galli R, Meterko V, et al. (2005) Dietary supplementation with fruit polyphenolics ameliorates age-related deficits in behavior and neuronal markers of inflammation and oxidative stress. Age(Dordr) 27, 4957.
39. Seeram NP, Lee R, Scheuller HS, et al. (2006) Identification of phenolic compounds in strawberries by liquid chromatography electrospray ionization mass spectroscopy. Food Chem 97, 111.
40. Milbury PE, Vita JA & Blumberg JB (2010) Anthocyanins are bioavailable in humans following an acute dose of cranberry juice. J Nutr 140, 10991104.
41. Ingram DK, Jucker M & Spangler EL. (1994) Behavioral manifestations of aging. In Pathobiology of the Aging Rat, pp. 149170 [U Mohr, DL Cungworth and CC Capen, editors]. Washington, DC: ILSI.
42. Shukitt-Hale B, Mouzakis G & Joseph JA (1998) Psychomotor and spatial memory performance in aging male Fischer 344 rats. Exp Gerontol 33, 615624.
43. Brandeis R, Brandys Y & Yehuda S (1989) The use of the Morris water maze in the study of memory and learning. Intern J Neurosci 48, 2969.
44. Shukitt-Hale B, Carey A, Simon LE, et al. (2004) Fruit polyphenols prevent inflammatory mediated decrements in cognition. Soc Neurosci Abs 30, 565.565.
45. Morris R (1984) Development of a water-maze procedure for studying spatial learning in the rat. J NeurosciMethods 11, 4760.
46. Ferrer I, Blanco R, Carmona M, et al. (2002) Active, phosphorylation-dependent MAP kinases, MAPK/ERK, SAPK/JNK and p38, and specific transcription factor substrates are differentially expressed following systemic administration of kainic acid to the adult rat. Acta Neuropathol 103, 391407.
47. Mendelson KG, Contois LR, Tevosian SG, et al. (1996) Independent regulation of JNK/p38 mitogen-activated protein kinases by metabolic oxidative stress in the liver. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 93, 1290812913.
48. O’Neill C, Kiely AP, Coakley MF, et al. (2012) Insulin and IGF-1 signalling: longevity, protein homoeostasis and Alzheimer’s disease. Biochem Soc Trans 40, 721727.
49. Krikorian R, Shidler MD, Nash TA, et al. (2010) Blueberry supplementation improves memory in older adults. J Agri Food Chem 58, 39964000.
50. Watson NL, Rosano C, Boudreau RM, et al. (2010) Executive function, memory, and gait speed decline in well-functioning older adults. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 65, 10931100.
51. Soumare A, Tavernier B, Alperovitch A, et al. (2009) A cross-sectional and longitudinal study of the relationship between walking speed and cognitive function in community-dwelling elderly people. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 64, 10581065.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

British Journal of Nutrition
  • ISSN: 0007-1145
  • EISSN: 1475-2662
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 179
Total number of PDF views: 590 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 1207 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 24th February 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.