Blueberries Improve Neuroinflammation and Cognition differentially Depending on Individual Cognitive baseline Status

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2019 Jun 18;74(7):977-983. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glz048.


Daily supplementation of blueberries (BBs) reverses age-related deficits in behavior in aged rats. However, it is unknown whether BB is more beneficial to one subset of the population dependent on baseline cognitive performance and inflammatory status. To examine the effect of individual differences on the efficacy of BB, aged rats (17 months old) were assessed for cognition in the radial arm water maze (RAWM) and divided into good, average, and poor performers based on navigation errors. Half of the rats in each cognitive group were then fed a control or a 2% BB diet for 8 weeks before retesting. Serum samples were collected, pre-diet and post-diet, to assess inflammation. Latency in the radial arm water maze was significantly reduced in the BB-fed poor performers (p < .05) and preserved in the BB-fed good performers. The control-fed good performers committed more working and reference memory errors in the post-test than pretest (p < .05), whereas the BB-fed good performers showed no change. An in vitro study using the serum showed that BB supplementation attenuated lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced nitrite and tumor necrosis factor-alpha, and cognitive performance was associated with innate anti-inflammatory capability. Therefore, consumption of BB may reverse some age-related deficits in cognition, as well as preserve function among those with intact cognitive ability.

Keywords: Anti-inflammatory; Antioxidant; Behavior; Learning; Memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aging* / immunology
  • Aging* / psychology
  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents* / immunology
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents* / pharmacology
  • Antioxidants* / metabolism
  • Antioxidants* / pharmacology
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Blueberry Plants*
  • Cognition* / drug effects
  • Cognition* / physiology
  • Diet Therapy / methods*
  • Maze Learning
  • Neuroimmunomodulation / drug effects
  • Neuroimmunomodulation / physiology
  • Plants, Medicinal
  • Rats
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / blood


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha