Dr. Barbara Shukitt-Hale

Dr Barbara Shuikitt-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 a Visiting Scholar 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 30 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 researching the behavioral and neurochemical effects of aging in rodents, specifically investigating motor and cognitive performance changes due to oxidative stress, using the free-radical theory of aging as a working model. Her work includes determining the factors responsible for age-related behavioral changes and possible amelioration of these effects with various nutritional treatments. Her work showing that a diet supplemented with blueberry extract could reverse functional age-related deficits in motor and cognitive behavior has had a tremendous impact in the popular press. She continues to research the mechanisms behind the berry fruit’s positive effects, and has found that they 1) have direct effects on signaling to enhance neuronal communication, 2) have the ability to buffer against excess calcium, 3) enhance neuroprotective stress shock proteins, and 4) reduce stress signals and increase neurogenesis. She has published more than 166 articles and selected papers.