Background: The interrelationships between omega-3 fatty acids status, brain perfusion, and cognition are not well understood.
Objective: To evaluate if SPECT brain imaging of cerebral perfusion and cognition varies as a function of omega-3 fatty acid levels.
Methods: A random sample of 166 study participants was drawn from a psychiatric referral clinical for which erythrocyte quantification of omega-3 eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) plus docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (the Omega-3 Index) was available. Quantitative brain SPECT was done on 128 regions based on a standard anatomical Atlas. Persons with erythrocyte EPA+DHA concentrations were dichotomized based on membership in top 50th percentile versus bottom 50th percentile categories. Two-sample t-tests were done to identify statistically significant differences in perfusion between the percentile groups. Partial correlations were modeled between EPA+DHA concentration and SPECT regions. Neurocognitive status was assessed using computerized testing (WebNeuro) and was separately correlated to cerebral perfusion on brain SPECT imaging and omega-3 EPA+DHA levels.
Results: Partial correlation analyses showed statistically significant relationships between higher omega-3 levels and cerebral perfusion were in the right parahippocampal gyrus (r = 0.20, p = 0.03), right precuneus (r = 0.20, p = 0.03), and vermis subregion 6 (p = 0.21, p = 0.03). Omega-3 Index levels separately correlated to the feeling subsection of the WebNeuro (r = 0.25, p = 0.01).
Conclusion: Quantitative omega-3 EPA+DHA erythrocyte concentrations are independently correlated with brain perfusion on SPECT imaging and neurocognitive tests. These results have implications for the role of omega-3 fatty acids toward contributing to cognitive reserve.
Keywords: Brain SPECT; cognitive; omega-3.