Monkeys that ate a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids had brains with highly connected and well organized neural networks — in some ways akin to the neural networks in healthy humans — while monkeys that ate a diet deficient in the fatty acids had much more limited brain networking, according to an Oregon Health & Science University study.
The study, published today in the Journal of Neuroscience, provides further evidence for the importance of omega-3 fatty acids in healthy brain development. It also represents the first time scientists have been able to use functional brain imaging in live animals to see the large-scale interaction of multiple brain networks in a monkey. These patterns are remarkably similar to the networks found in humans using the same imaging techniques.
"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."
Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids for the human body. But while they are needed for human health, the body can't make them — it has to get them through food.
The study measured a kind of omega-3 fatty acid called docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, which is a primary component of the human brain and important in development of the brain and vision. DHA is especially found in fatty fish and oils from those fish — including salmon, mackerel and tuna. Research by a co-author on the paper, Martha Neuringer, Ph.D., an associate scientist in the Division of Neuroscience at OHSU’s Oregon National Primate Research Center, previously showed the 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.
"It would be important to see how a diet high in omega-3s might affect brain development early on in their lives, and across their lifespan," Fair said.
The study was funded by the Oregon Clinical and Translational Research Institute (through National Institutes of Health grant UL1TR000128), several other NIH grants (grants UL1 RR024140, P510D011092, K99/R00 MH091238, R01 MH096773, EY13199, and DK29930) and the Foundation Fighting Blindness.
About OHSU Brain Institute
The Oregon Health & Science University Brain Institute is a national neuroscience leader in patient care, research and education. With more than 1,000 brain scientists and specialists, OHSU is home to one of the largest communities of brain and central nervous system experts in the nation. OHSU Brain Institute scientists have won national recognition for breaking new ground in understanding Alzheimer’s disease and for discoveries that have led to new treatments for Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, stroke and other brain disorders and diseases.
Oregon Health & Science University is a nationally prominent research university and Oregon’s only public academic health center. It serves patients throughout the region with a Level 1 trauma center and nationally recognized Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. OHSU operates dental, medical, nursing and pharmacy schools that rank high both in research funding and in meeting the university’s social mission. OHSU’s Knight Cancer Institute helped pioneer personalized medicine through a discovery that identified how to shut down cells that enable cancer to grow without harming healthy ones. OHSU Brain Institute scientists are nationally recognized for discoveries that have led to a better understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and new treatments for Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and stroke. OHSU’s Casey Eye Institute is a global leader in ophthalmic imaging, and in clinical trials related to eye disease.
Todd Murphy | EurekAlert!
Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University
New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters
Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...
Let’s say the armrest is broken in your vintage car. As things stand, you would need a lot of luck and persistence to find the right spare part. But in the world of Industrie 4.0 and production with batch sizes of one, you can simply scan the armrest and print it out. This is made possible by the first ever 3D scanner capable of working autonomously and in real time. The autonomous scanning system will be on display at the Hannover Messe Preview on February 6 and at the Hannover Messe proper from April 23 to 27, 2018 (Hall 6, Booth A30).
Part of the charm of vintage cars is that they stopped making them long ago, so it is special when you do see one out on the roads. If something breaks or...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
16.02.2018 | Information Technology
16.02.2018 | Health and Medicine
16.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy