Blueberry supplementation induces spatial memory improvements and region-specific regulation of hippocampal BDNF mRNA expression in young rats
Rendeiro, C., Vauzour, D., Kean, R. J., Butler, L. T., Rattray, M., Spencer, J. P. E. and Williams, C. M. (2012) Blueberry supplementation induces spatial memory improvements and region-specific regulation of hippocampal BDNF mRNA expression in young rats. Psychopharmacology, 223 (3). pp. 319-330. ISSN 0033-3158
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1007/s00213-012-2719-8
Rationale: Flavonoid-rich foods have been shown to be able to reverse age-related cognitive deficits in memory and learning in both animals and humans. However, to date, there have been only a limited number of studies investigating the effects of flavonoid-rich foods on cognition in young/healthy animals. Objectives: The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of a blueberry-rich diet in young animals using a spatial working memory paradigm, the delayed non-match task, using an eight-arm radial maze. Furthermore, the mechanisms underlying such behavioural effects were investigated. Results: We show that a 7-week supplementation with a blueberry diet (2 % w/w) improves the spatial memory performance of young rats (2 months old). Blueberry-fed animals also exhibited a faster rate of learning compared to those on the control diet. These behavioural outputs were accompanied by the activation of extracellular signal-related kinase (ERK1/2), increases in total cAMP-response element binding protein (CREB) and elevated levels of pro- and mature brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the hippocampus. Changes in hippocampal CREB correlated well with memory performance. Further regional analysis of BDNF gene expression in the hippocampus revealed a specific increase in BDNF mRNA in the dentate gyrus and CA1 areas of hippocampi of blueberry-fed animals. Conclusions: The present study suggests that consumption of flavonoid-rich blueberries has a positive impact on spatial learning performance in young healthy animals, and these improvements are linked to the activation of ERK–CREB– BDNF pathway in the hippocampus.