Have you ever wished that you could be thrown repeatedly into a swimming pool filled with murky water, and reliably find your way to a submerged platform? Probably not. But that is a common way to test the memory of mice. Mice who remember the location of the platform find it more quickly, and of course mice with better memories remember the location better. But what makes for a good memory in a mouse? Surprisingly, one of the answers is a group of foods that contains the antioxidant chemical epicatechin. A recent study in the Journal of Neuroscience found that mice who ate more of this chemical found the submerged platform more quickly than a control group of rats who did not get an epicatechin supplement.
So where can you get epicatechin? In some very tasty foods, actually. Blueberries, grapes, tea, and cocoa top the list. Personally, I like the prospect of eating more dark chocolate and drinking more tea. But the study suggests there is one more step I should take, to get maximum benefit to my memory: Exercise. Rats that ran a treadmill for two hours a day, and also go the epicatechin supplement had the best performance in the underwater maze. I hate treadmills, but if raking leaves or walking my dogs can work as a substitute, I’m already there.
Of course, there may be a few nit-pickers out there who will point out that mice are not exactly the same as people, and that finding a submerged maze may not involve the same memory systems as remembering material for a psychology quiz. Pick all you want, but you are not going to stop me from making a batch of blueberry muffins, and telling myself that they are good for me.