Fatty acids research group

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that can only be acquired via dietary sources such as oily fish. These fatty acids moderate inflammation and support cardiovascular function; DHA in particular is essential for maintaining the structure and function of the brain. Consumption of omega-3 fatty acids tends to be low in a typical Western diet; our lab investigates the effects of their increased consumption on cognition and brain function.

Dr Philippa Jackson, research group leader:

"I've been investigating the effects of omega-3 fatty acids for the past 10 years. During my PhD, we looked at the effects of short term supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids on brain function in healthy children and young adults. We discovered that whilst short-term (8-16 weeks) supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids does not confer any benefits in these samples with regard to cognitive function, data collected using our continuous wave NIRS showed evidence of increased blood flow during cognitive task performance. We hypothesised that such changes in delivery of blood flow to the brain may confer greater benefit in older adults, where cerebrovascular function is in natural decline. However, this was found not to be the case during a six-month intervention study in healthy older adults which was surprising."

Michael Patan, PhD student:

"My programme of studies is focusing on the underlying mechanisms of EPA and DHA with regard to cognitive function. The use of frequency domain 'quantitative' NIRS may overcome some of the difficulties previously experienced measuring changes in cerebral haemodynamics over chronic intervention periods. Another important aspect of my research is the effect of EPA and DHA on sleep, and how this may relate to observed changes in cognitive function."

Professor David Kennedy, project adviser: 

"There is no doubt that dietary omega-3 fatty acids are important for maintaining brain health across the lifespan. Our lab is dedicated to understanding their effects on brain function and the mechanisms underpinning these effects."

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