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Monkeys that eat omega-3 rich diet show more developed brain networks
Date:2/5/2014

e importance of DHA for infants' visual development a finding that led to the addition of DHA to infant formulas.

The scientists studied a group of older rhesus macaque monkeys 17 to 19 years of age from ONPRC that had been fed all of their lives either a diet low or high in omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA. The study found that the monkeys that had the high-DHA diet had strong connectivity of early visual pathways in their brains. It also found that monkeys with the high-DHA diet showed greater connections within various brain networks similar to the human brain including networks for higher-level processing and cognition, said David Grayson, a former research assistant in Fair's lab and first author on the paper. Grayson is now studying at the Center for Neuroscience, University of California-Davis.

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

Now that those measurements and monitoring are possible, Fair said, the next step will be to analyze whether the monkeys with deficits in certain networks have behavioral patterns that are similar to behavioral patterns in humans with certain neurological or psychiatric conditions including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and autism.

Fair, who was among the 102 people given the 2013 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers by President Barack Obama, is a leader in using the same kind of brain imaging to explore brain networks in children with ADHD and autism. He said he hopes to use these non-invasive brain imaging techniques to provide an important link between research in humans and animals in order to better characterize, treat, and prevent these types of developmental mental health issues.

Fair added that another longer-term goal would be to study brain development in the monkeys fed various diets from birth into maturity.

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Contact: Todd Murphy
murphyt@ohsu.edu
503-494-8231
Oregon Health & Science University
Source:Eurekalert  

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