Monday, 5 November 2012

Omega-3 intake heightens working memory

Omega-3 essential fatty acids found in foods like wild fish and grass-fed livestock are necessary for human body functioning, their effects on the working memory of healthy young adults have not been studied until now.

In the first study of its kind, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have determined that healthy young adults ages 18-25 can improve their working memory even further by increasing their Omega-3 fatty acid intake. Their findings have been published online in PLOS One
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Led by Rajesh Narendarn, project principal investigator and associate professor of radiology, the Pitt research team sought healthy young men and women from all ethnicities to boost their Omega-3 intake with supplements for six months. They were monitored monthly through phone calls and outpatient procedures.

Before they began taking the supplements, all participants underwent positron emission tomography (PET) imaging, and their blood samples were analyzed. They were then asked to perform a working memory test in which they were shown a series of letters and numbers. The young adults had to keep track of what appeared one, two, and three times prior, known as a simple "n-back test."

After six months of taking Lovaza an Omega-3 supplement approved by the Federal Drug Administration the participants were asked to complete this series of outpatient procedures again. It was during this last stage, during the working memory test and blood sampling, that the improved working memory of this population was revealed.

Although the effects of Omega-3s on young people were a focus, the Pitt team was also hoping to determine the brain mechanism associated with Omega-3 regulation. Previous rodent studies suggested that removing Omega-3 from the diet might reduce dopamine storage (the neurotransmitter associated with mood as well as working memory) and decrease density in the striatal vesicular monoamine transporter type 2 (commonly referred to as VMAT2, a protein associated with decision making). Therefore, the Pitt researchers posited that increasing VMAT2 protein was the mechanism of action that boosted cognitive performance. Unfortunately, PET imaging revealed this was not the case.

"It is really interesting that diets enriched with Omega-3 fatty acid can enhance cognition in highly functional young individuals," said Narendarn. "Nevertheless, it was a bit disappointing that our imaging studies were unable to clarify the mechanisms by which it enhances working memory."

Ongoing animal modeling studies in the Moghaddam lab indicate that brain mechanisms that are affected by Omega-3s may be differently influenced in adolescents and young adults than they are in older adults. With this in mind, the Pitt team will continue to evaluate the effect of Omega-3 fatty acids in this younger population to find the mechanism that improves cognition.

Other Pitt researchers involved in the project include William G. Frankle, professor of psychiatry, and Neal S. Mason, research assistant professor of radiology.

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The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of Pittsburgh.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:
Rajesh Narendran, William G. Frankle, Neale S. Mason, Matthew F. Muldoon, Bita Moghaddam. Improved Working Memory but No Effect on Striatal Vesicular Monoamine Transporter Type 2 after Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Supplementation. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (10): e46832 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0046832
Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. View the original article here


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