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Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Help Brain Cope With Overload

Last Updated: December 23, 2009.

Low intake of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the brain's ability to handle sensory overload, which could explain some of the symptoms seen in conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and attention-deficit disorder, according to an animal study published in the December issue of Behavioral Neuroscience.

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Low intake of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the brain's ability to handle sensory overload, which could explain some of the symptoms seen in conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and attention-deficit disorder, according to an animal study published in the December issue of Behavioral Neuroscience.

Norman Salem Jr., Ph.D., of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues studied pregnant mice which were fed diets that were either deficient, low, or high in α-linolenic acid, or contained a balance of 0.4 percent α-linolenic acid, 2 percent docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and 2 percent eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

Among the offspring, the researchers found that only those exposed to optimal amounts of DHA and EPA during gestation and nursing showed normal, adaptive sensorimotor gating in their responses to loud noises that followed soft tones.

"The results of the present study reveal that omega-3 fatty acid deficiency induces profound behavioral changes in mice," the authors conclude. "For the first time, a deficit in sensorimotor gating as assessed by prepulse inhibition of the acoustic startle response was observed in mice fed the omega-3 fatty acid deficient and a low α-linolenic acid diet. There is a large body of evidence on the importance of omega-3 status for learning and memory, but prepulse inhibition reflects an automatic, involuntary inhibitory process that functions to protect the initial processing of the information."

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