This project is funded by the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council
Professor Carey's research examines the effects of high fat diet on the brain. She is working on a study -- with the help of a few excellent Simmons College students -- where mice were fed a high fat diet with and without blueberry, a high antioxidant fruit. Previously, it was demonstrated that mice fed a high fat diet for five months had impaired memory; however supplementation of the high fat diet with 4% freeze-dried blueberry reduced these memory deficits. In the current study, they used two techniques, ELISA and immunohistochemistry, to assess markers of neuroplasticity in the brains of mice fed high fat diet with and without blueberry. Brains of the mice were assessed for brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is a protein involved in supporting the health and growth of neurons, and neurogenesis, which is the formation of new neurons. BDNF and neurogenesis were enhanced in the brains of mice fed high fat diet with blueberry compared to mice fed high fat diet.
Overall, this study demonstrates that supplementation of a high fat diet with blueberry increases neuroplasticity, and these changes may underlie the reduction in memory deficits observed in these animals. Professor Carey is continuing to evaluate other brain alterations associated with high fat diet and blueberry supplementation.