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NMDA receptor-dependent long-term potentiation (LTP) in the hippocampus is widely accepted as a cellular substrate for memory formation. Age-related declines in the expression of both NMDAR-dependent LTP and NMDAR subunit proteins in the CA1 region of the hippocampus have been well characterized and likely underlie age-related memory impairment. In the current study, we examined NMDAR-dependent LTP in young Fischer 344 rats (4 months old) and aged rats (24 months old) given either a control diet or a diet supplemented with blueberry extract for 6-8 weeks. NMDAR-dependent LTP was evoked by high-frequency stimulation (HFS) in the presence of nifedipine, to eliminate voltage-gated calcium channel LTP. Field excitatory postsynaptic potentials (fEPSPs) were increased by 57% 1 h after HFS in young animals, but this potentiation was reduced to 31% in aged animals. Supplementation of the diet with blueberry extract elevated LTP (63%) in aged animals to levels seen in young. The normalization of LTP may be due to the blueberry diet preventing a decline in synaptic strength, as measured by the slope of the fEPSP for a given fiber potential. The blueberry diet did not prevent age-related declines in NMDAR protein expression. However, phosphorylation of a key tyrosine residue on the NR2B subunit, important for increasing NMDAR function, was enhanced by the diet, suggesting that an increase in NMDAR function might overcome the loss in protein. This report provides evidence that dietary alterations later in life may prevent or postpone the cognitive declines associated with aging. © 2008 Springer.

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263 - 272