Omega-3 fatty acids (fish-oil) and depression-related cognition in healthy volunteers

J Psychopharmacol. 2009 Sep;23(7):831-40. doi: 10.1177/0269881108092120. Epub 2008 Jun 26.


Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (n-3 PUFA) supplementation may be beneficial in the treatment of several psychiatric disorders, including depression. A small number of studies have suggested that there may also be cognitive and mood effects in healthy samples. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the effects of n-3 PUFA on depression-relevant cognitive functioning in healthy individuals. Fifty-four healthy university students were randomized to receive either n-3 PUFA supplements or placebo for 4 weeks in a double-blind design. The test battery included measures of cognitive reactivity, attention, response inhibition, facial emotion recognition, memory and risky decision-making. Results showed few effects of n-3 PUFAs on cognition and mood states. The n-3 PUFA group made fewer risk-averse decisions than the placebo group. This difference appeared only in non-normative trials of the decision-making test, and was not accompanied by increased impulsiveness. N-3 PUFAs improved scores on the control/perfectionism scale of the cognitive reactivity measure. No effects were found on the other cognitive tasks and no consistent effects on mood were observed. The present findings indicate that n-3 PUFA supplementation may have a selective effect on risky decision making in healthy volunteers, which is unrelated to impulsiveness.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Affect / drug effects
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Decision Making / drug effects
  • Depression / diet therapy
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / blood
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Compliance
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects
  • Young Adult


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3