Nutrient biomarkers shape individual differences in functional brain connectivity: Evidence from omega-3 PUFAs

Hum Brain Mapp. 2019 Apr 15;40(6):1887-1897. doi: 10.1002/hbm.24498. Epub 2018 Dec 16.


A wealth of neuroscience evidence demonstrates that diet and nutrition play an important role in structural brain plasticity, promoting the development of gray matter volume and maintenance of white matter integrity across the lifespan. However, the role of nutrition in shaping individual differences in the functional brain connectome remains to be well established. We therefore investigated whether nutrient biomarkers known to have beneficial effects on brain structure (i.e., the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids; ω-3 PUFAs), explain individual differences in functional brain connectivity within healthy older adults (N = 96). Our findings demonstrate that ω-3 PUFAs are associated with individual differences in functional connectivity within regions that support executive function (prefrontal cortex), memory (hippocampus), and emotion (amygdala), and provide key evidence that the influence of these regions on global network connectivity reliably predict general, fluid, and crystallized intelligence. The observed findings not only elucidate the role of ω-3 PUFAs in functional brain plasticity and intelligence, but also motivate future studies to examine their impact on psychological health, aging, and disease.

Keywords: functional brain connectivity; general intelligence; individual differences; omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Connectome
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / blood*
  • Female
  • Functional Neuroimaging
  • Humans
  • Individuality*
  • Intelligence / physiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology
  • Nerve Net / diagnostic imaging*
  • Neuropsychological Tests


  • Biomarkers
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3