Background: The beneficial effects of prenatal and early postnatal intakes of omega-3 (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) on cognitive development during infancy are well recognized. However, few studies have examined the extent to which these benefits continue to be evident in childhood.
Objective: The aim of this study was to examine the relation of n-3 PUFAs and seafood-contaminant intake with memory function in school-age children from a fish-eating community.
Design: In a prospective, longitudinal study in Arctic Quebec, we assessed Inuit children (n = 154; mean age: 11.3 y) by using a continuous visual recognition task to measure 2 event-related potential components related to recognition memory processing: the FN400 and the late positive component (LPC). Children were also examined by using 2 well-established neurobehavioral assessments of memory: the Digit span forward from Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children, 4th edition, and the California Verbal Learning Test-Children's Version.
Results: Repeated-measures analyses of variance revealed that children with higher cord plasma concentrations of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is an important n-3 PUFA, had a shorter FN400 latency and a larger LPC amplitude; and higher plasma DHA concentrations at the time of testing were associated with increased FN400 amplitude. Cord DHA-related effects were observed regardless of seafood-contaminant amounts. Multiple regression analyses also showed positive associations between cord DHA concentrations and performance on neurobehavioral assessments of memory.
Conclusion: To our knowledge, this study provides the first neurophysiologic and neurobehavioral evidence of long-term beneficial effects of n-3 PUFA intake in utero on memory function in school-age children.