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Omega-3 Rich Diet Tied to More Developed Brain Networks in Monkeys

Update Date: Feb 06, 2014 01:31 PM EST

Omgea-3 fatty acids have been tied to improving several health conditions, such as blood pressure and inflammation. In a new study, researchers from an Oregon Health and Science University fed monkeys one of two diets, which were either high or low in omega-3. The researchers concluded that the omega-3 rich diet was tied to more developed brain networks.

For this study, the researchers examined rhesus macaque monkeys between the ages of 17 and 19 from the Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC). Throughout the monkey's lifetime, they were fed either a diet rich in omega-3 or a diet with insufficient omega-3 levels. The omega-3 fatty acid that the researchers focused on was docosahexaenoic acid, also known as DHA. DHA has been tied to healthy brain and vision development. The researchers used functional brain imaging to analyze the monkeys' brain networks.

The team reported that monkeys eating the omega-3 rich diet had stronger connectivity in the early visual pathways of their brains. These monkeys also had better connections within their brain networks, particularly in the regions tied to processing and cognition.

"The data shows the benefits in how the monkeys' brains organize over their lifetime if in the setting of a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids," said Damien Fair, PA-C, Ph.D., assistant professor of behavioral neuroscience and assistant professor of psychiatry in the OHSU School of Medicine and senior author on the paper. "The data also shows in detail how similar the networks in a monkey brain are to networks in a human brain, but only in the context of a diet rich in omega-3-fatty acids."

Fair added, according to Medical Xpress, "For example, we could see activity and connections within areas of the macaque brain that are important in the human brain for attention."

Fair does a lot of research on the relationship between brain networks in children and brain disorders, such as autism and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). The findings were published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

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