Spatial learning and memory deficits associated with hippocampal synaptic plasticity impairments are commonly observed during aging. Besides, the beneficial role of dietary polyphenols has been suggested as potential functional food candidates to prevent this memory decline. Indeed, polyphenols could potentiate the signaling pathways of synaptic plasticity underlying learning and memory. In this study, spatial learning deficits of middle-aged mice were first highlighted and characterized according to their navigation patterns in the Morris water maze task. An eight-week polyphenol-enriched diet, containing a polyphenol-rich extract from grape and blueberry (PEGB; from the Neurophenols Consortium) with high contents of flavonoids, stilbenes and phenolic acids, was then successful in reversing these age-induced effects. The use of spatial strategies was indeed delayed with aging whereas a polyphenol supplementation could promote the occurrence of spatial strategies. These behavioral results were associated with neurobiological changes: while the expression of hippocampal calmodulin kinase II (CaMKII) mRNA levels was reduced in middle-aged animals, the polyphenol-enriched diet could rescue them. Besides, an increased expression of nerve growth neurotrophic factor (NGF) mRNA levels was also observed in supplemented adult and middle-aged mice. Thus these data suggest that supplementation with polyphenols could be an efficient nutritional way to prevent age-induced cognitive decline.
Keywords: age; berries; hippocampus; learning and memory; navigation; polyphenols; strategy.