Dr. Barbara Shukitt-Hale

Dr. Barbara Shukitt-Hale

Dr. Barbara Shukitt-Hale

2022 Berries and the Brain Session Chair

Dr. Barbara Shukitt-Hale is a USDA Staff Scientist in the Laboratory of Neuroscience and Aging, USDA-ARS, Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University in Boston, MA. Additionally, she serves as an Affiliate Faculty member in the Psychology Department and an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. She received her Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from Boston University in 1993.

In 1996, Dr. Shukitt-Hale was awarded the Glenn Post-Doctoral Award, presented by the American Aging Association. She is a member of the Society for Neuroscience and has served as a board member and secretary of the American Aging Association. Dr. Shukitt-Hale has been involved in research for almost 40 years, beginning when she was an undergraduate student at Boston University; this work earned her the Research Award, given at graduation to the best student researcher in the Psychology Department. Before coming to the HNRCA, she worked as a Research Psychologist in the Division of Health and Performance and as a Neuroscientist in the Military Performance and Neuroscience Division at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM).

Dr. Shukitt-Hale’s current work involves investigating motor and cognitive performance changes due to oxidative stress and inflammation and the possible amelioration of these effects with proper nutrition. She has developed and utilized behavioral techniques to examine the motor and cognitive performance changes due to oxidative stress and inflammation during aging and under other oxidative stress/inflammatory conditions (such as radiation), in conjunction with changes in cellular function and signal transduction. She then uses these models to examine the effects of different polyphenolic-rich diets on these age-related behavioral parameters as well as changes in brain function. Notably, she has shown that phenolic compounds have beneficial effects on the brain, including enhanced signaling, autophagy, and neurogenesis and that fruit and vegetable extracts, such as from strawberries, blueberries, and walnuts, can prevent and even reverse age-related changes in brain performance. These findings have had tremendous impact in the popular press. Recently, Dr. Shukitt-Hale has focused on translating these results to humans through the use of clinical trials. She continues to research the mechanisms behind the positive effects of foods. She has published more than 237 manuscripts and selected papers and serves on the Editorial Board of numerous scientific journals.