British Journal of Nutrition

Short Communication

DHA-rich oil modulates the cerebral haemodynamic response to cognitive tasks in healthy young adults: a near IR spectroscopy pilot study

Philippa A. Jacksona1 c1, Jonathon L. Reaya1, Andrew B. Scholeya2 and David O. Kennedya1

a1 Brain, Performance and Nutrition Research Centre, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8ST, UK

a2 Centre for Human Psychopharmacology, Swinburne University, Melbourne VIC 3122, Australia


The impact of dietary n-3 PUFA on behavioural outcomes has been widely researched; however, very little attention has been given to their impact on brain functioning in physiological terms. A total of twenty-two healthy adults took part in this double-blind, placebo-controlled study, wherein the cerebral haemodynamic effects of 12 weeks of daily dietary supplementation with either 1 g DHA-rich or 1 g EPA-rich fish oil (FO) or placebo (1 g olive oil) were assessed. Relative changes in the concentration of oxygenated Hb (oxy-Hb) and deoxygenated Hb were assessed in the prefrontal cortex using near IR spectroscopy (NIRS) during the performance of four computerised cognitive tasks. Supplementation with DHA-rich FO, in comparison with placebo, resulted in a significant increase in the concentrations of oxy-Hb and total levels of Hb, indicative of increased cerebral blood flow (CBF), during the cognitive tasks. In comparison, no effect on CBF was observed following supplementation with EPA-rich FO, where concentration changes in the chromophores followed the same pattern as placebo. These encouraging pilot data warrant further application of NIRS in this area.

(Received January 27 2011)

(Revised May 31 2011)

(Accepted May 31 2011)

(Online publication October 03 2011)


c1 Corresponding author: Dr P. A. Jackson, fax +44 191 227 4515, email


Abbreviations: CBF, cerebral blood flow; deoxy-Hb, deoxygenated Hb; FO, fish oil; NIRS, near IR spectroscopy; oxy-Hb, oxygenated Hb; rCBF, regional cerebral blood flow