Maternal DHA and the development of attention in infancy and toddlerhood

Child Dev. Jul-Aug 2004;75(4):1254-67. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2004.00737.x.


Infants were followed longitudinally to document the relationship between docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) levels and the development of attention. Erythrocyte (red-blood cell; RBC) phospholipid DHA (percentage of total fatty acids) was measured from infants and mothers at delivery. Infants were assessed in infant-control habituation at 4, 6, and 8 months augmented with psychophysiological measures, and on free-play attention and distractibility paradigms at 12 and 18 months. Infants whose mothers had high DHA at birth showed an accelerated decline in looking over the 1st year and increases in examining during single-object exploration and less distractibility in the 2nd year. These findings are consistent with evidence suggesting a link between DHA and cognitive development in infancy.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arachidonic Acid / metabolism
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Child
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Cognition
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / metabolism*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Electrocardiography
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Habituation, Psychophysiologic
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Mothers*


  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Arachidonic Acid