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Life Sci Space Res (Amst). 2017 Feb;12:16-23. doi: 10.1016/j.lssr.2016.12.002. Epub 2016 Dec 15.

Neurochemical differences in learning and memory paradigms among rats supplemented with anthocyanin-rich blueberry diets and exposed to acute doses of 56Fe particles.

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USDA Human Nutrtion Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, 711 Washington Street, Boston MA 02111, USA.
Department of Psychology, UMBC, Baltimore, MD 21250, USA.
USDA Human Nutrtion Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, 711 Washington Street, Boston MA 02111, USA. Electronic address:


The protective effects of anthocyanin-rich blueberries (BB) on brain health are well documented and are particularly important under conditions of high oxidative stress, which can lead to "accelerated aging." One such scenario is exposure to space radiation, consisting of high-energy and -charge particles (HZE), which are known to cause cognitive dysfunction and deleterious neurochemical alterations. We recently tested the behavioral and neurochemical effects of acute exposure to HZE particles such as 56Fe, within 24-48h after exposure, and found that radiation primarily affects memory and not learning. Importantly, we observed that specific brain regions failed to upregulate antioxidant and anti-inflammatory mechanisms in response to this insult. To further examine these endogenous response mechanisms, we have supplemented young rats with diets rich in BB, which are known to contain high amounts of antioxidant-phytochemicals, prior to irradiation. Exposure to 56Fe caused significant neurochemical changes in hippocampus and frontal cortex, the two critical regions of the brain involved in cognitive function. BB supplementation significantly attenuated protein carbonylation, which was significantly increased by exposure to 56Fe in the hippocampus and frontal cortex. Moreover, BB supplementation significantly reduced radiation-induced elevations in NADPH-oxidoreductase-2 (NOX2) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), and upregulated nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) in the hippocampus and frontal cortex. Overall results indicate that 56Fe particles may induce their toxic effects on hippocampus and frontal cortex by reactive oxygen species (ROS) overload, which can cause alterations in the neuronal environment, eventually leading to hippocampal neuronal death and subsequent impairment of cognitive function. Blueberry supplementation provides an effective preventative measure to reduce the ROS load on the CNS in an event of acute HZE exposure.


Blueberries; Hippocampus; Inflammation; Learning; Memory; Radiation

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