Docosahexaenoic acid-rich fish oil modulates the cerebral hemodynamic response to cognitive tasks in healthy young adults

Biol Psychol. 2012 Jan;89(1):183-90. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2011.10.006. Epub 2011 Oct 19.


A number of recent studies have assessed the impact of dietary omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) on behavioral outcomes; however, very little attention has been given to their impact upon brain function in physiological terms. Sixty-five healthy adults aged 18-29yrs took part in this double-blind, placebo-controlled study assessing the effects of 12 weeks daily dietary supplementation with docosahexaenoic acid-rich fish oil (1g, 2g) or placebo (olive oil). Relative changes in the concentration of oxyhemoglobin and deoxyhemoglobin were assessed in the prefrontal cortex using near-infrared spectroscopy during performance of nine computerized cognitive tasks. Supplementation with both doses of fish oil, in comparison with placebo, resulted in significantly increased concentrations of oxyhemoglobin and total levels of hemoglobin, indicative of increased cerebral blood flow, during the cognitive tasks. Changes in hemodynamic response to tasks were not accompanied by consistent changes in cognitive performance.

Trial registration: NCT01075932.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cerebral Cortex / drug effects*
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / drug effects*
  • Choice Behavior / drug effects
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / administration & dosage*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Executive Function / drug effects
  • Female
  • Fish Oils / administration & dosage*
  • Hemodynamics / drug effects*
  • Hemoglobins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / drug effects
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Oxyhemoglobins / metabolism
  • Reaction Time / drug effects
  • Space Perception / drug effects
  • Spectroscopy, Near-Infrared
  • Young Adult


  • Fish Oils
  • Hemoglobins
  • Oxyhemoglobins
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • deoxyhemoglobin

Associated data