Omega-3 Shown to Boost Memory in Young Minds
If you’re looking for ways to improve your memory above and beyond your normal limits, a team of scientists at the University of Pittsburgh have not only confirmed the vital role that Omega-3 fatty acids, found primarily in fish, play in the brain’s health, but have also found that increased intake of the vitamin can actively increase young people’s ability to retain and recall information can be drastically improved beyond what is considered normal.
“Before seeing this data, I would have said it was impossible to move young healthy individuals above their cognitive best,” said Bita Moghaddam, professor of neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh. “We found that members of this population can enhance their working memory performance even further, despite their already being at the top of their cognitive game.”
For the study, men and women between the ages of 18 and 25 of all ethnic groups were subjected to PET imaging scans and blood sample analysis to determine their levels of brain activity in correlation to the amount of Omega-3 fatty acids already present in their system, as well as performing a series of tests designed to gauge the performance level of their working memory called an “n-back test,” in which subjects kept track of the number of times different items appeared.
“What was particularly interesting about the pre-supplementation n-back test was that it correlated positively with plasma omega-3,” Moghaddam said. “This means that the omega-3s they were getting from their diet already positively correlated with their working memory.”
Then, the subjects were given increased amounts of Omega-3 acids via a health supplement called Lovaza for a period of six months. After the six months had elapsed, the researchers conducted the same tests as before. It was then shown that the test subjects exhibited vastly improved performance in the n-back tests, showing that the working memory in young adults were capable of achieving a heightened state of function. However, the researchers were unable to determine exactly what process causes this to be the case, as the research team’s working hypothesis of Omega-3 increasing the presence of VMAT2 protein was disproved during PET scans.
“It is really interesting that diets enriched with omega-3 fatty acid can enhance cognition in highly functional young individuals,” said project leader Rajesh Narendarn. “Nevertheless, it was a bit disappointing that our imaging studies were unable to clarify the mechanisms by which it enhances working memory.”
The research study can be found on the PLOS ONE online journal.