Bethesda, MD—Many healthcare providers feel patients of behavioral and neurological disorders (like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or attention-deficient hyperactivity disorder [ADHD]) benefit from omega-3 DHA. Now, investigators from the National Institutes of Health believe they may have answers for why this holds true, thanks to information gathered in a small animal trial.
The group gave four sets of pregnant mice different diets and measured how the offspring responded to loud noises, which is a test of how their nervous systems functioned. Animals (and humans) normally respond with a flinch to a loud, unexpected noise; if the noise is followed by another loud sound, the animals typically don’t flinch as much. This adaptation, the team explained, is called sensorimotor gating.
The mice that had a DHA/EPA-rich diet were the only ones that exhibited this response to loud noises. Mice on an omega-3 deficient or low-ALA diet had no sensorimotor gating response at all; those on a high-ALA diet had a smaller, but substantially reduced, gating response than the DHA/EPA group.
According to the researchers, weak sensorimotor gating is often a symptom of ADHD and schizophrenia in humans. The data offers more evidence, they say that DHA/EPA are important for brain health, possibly by maintaining nerve-cell membranes.
Published in WholeFoods Magazine, Feb. 2010