A handful of walnuts a day may help keep Alzheimer’s disease at bay, a new study has found.

Researchers at the New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities said experiments with Alzheimer’s-susceptible mice found that subjects that consumed walnuts showed significant improvement in their learning skills and memory compared with mice without them in their diet.

The study also found improvement in motor skills and reduction in anxiety. The mice in the experiment consumed an amount of walnuts that would be the equivalent for humans of eating about 1 to 1.5 ounces of walnuts a day.

Abha Chauhan , the lead researcher, said Monday that the study follows up on previous work that found walnut extract offered protective benefits to the oxidative damage caused by amyloid beta, a protein that has been implicated in the dementia-causing disease.

Previous studies have shown that walnuts — whose meat has an uncanny resemblance to the brain — contain a number of compounds that help protect the brain, including Omega-3 fatty acids, and perhaps ward off Alzheimer’s.

The nuts also contain anti-oxidants and other components that combat the effects of cell-killing stress and inflammation. In fact, Chauhan said, walnuts rank second — just behind blackberries — on a list of 1,100 foods with anti-oxidative properties.

In the latest study, the team, using wild mice and mice genetically altered to be vulnerable to developing Alzheimer’s disease, fed the animals custom-mixed diets containing 6 percent or 9 percent walnuts and then subjected them to a battery of experiments and mazes that tested their spatial and learning ability and psychomotor skills and coordination. The mice in a control group performed much worse than the mice that consumed the walnut-enriched diet, the study found.

The research — which was funded in part by New York’s Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and partly by the California Walnut Commission, which is a state agency funded by mandatory assessments on that state’s walnut growers, appeared online in the October issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.