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Long-chain omega-3 fatty acid intake is associated positively with corticolimbic gray matter volume in healthy adults

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By SM Conklin, et al. • • July 21, 2007

Journal: Neuroscience Letters. 2007 Jun 29;421(3):209-12. [E-publication 2007 Jun 2. ]

Authors and affiliation: Conklin SM, Gianaros PJ, Brown SM, Yao JK, Hariri AR, Manuck SB, Muldoon MF. Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, USA.

PMID: 17574755

Background: In animals, dendritic arborization and levels of brain derived neurotrophic factor are positively associated with intake of the omega-3 fatty acids. Here, we test whether omega-3 fatty acid intake in humans varies with individual differences in gray matter volume, an in vivo, systems-level index of neuronal integrity.

Methods: Fifty-five healthy adults completed two 24-hour dietary recall interviews. Intake of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids was categorized by tertiles. Regional gray matter volumes in a putative emotional brain circuitry comprised of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), amygdala and hippocampus were calculated using optimized voxel-based morphometry on high-resolution structural magnetic resonance images.

Results: Region of interest analyses revealed positive associations between reported dietary omega-3 intake and gray matter volume in the subgenual ACC, the right hippocampus and the right amygdala, adjusted for total gray matter volume of brain.

Unconstrained whole-brain analyses confirmed that higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids was selectively associated with increased greater gray matter volume in these and not other regions.

Conclusions: Higher reported consumption of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids is associated with greater gray matter volume in nodes of a corticolimbic circuitry supporting emotional arousal and regulation. Such associations may mediate previously observed effects of omega-3 fatty acids on memory, mood and affect regulation.

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