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Nutr Res. 2008 Nov;28(11):798-808. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2008.09.004.

Long-term treatment with fish oil prevents memory impairments but not hippocampal damage in rats subjected to transient, global cerebral ischemia.

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Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, Health Science Center, State University of Maringá, Maringá, 87020-900 Paraná, Brazil.


Cerebral ischemia leads to neurodegeneration and cognitive impairment. Fish oil (FO) constitutes a rich dietary source of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids especially docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The objective of the present study was to investigate whether long-term treatment with commercial, high concentration DHA-containing FO could be effective in alleviating both the cognitive and neurodegenerative deficits caused by transient, global cerebral ischemia (TGCI) in rats. Naive rats were trained for 10 days in an 8-arm radial maze task and then subjected to TGCI for 15 minutes (4-VO model) 3 days later (day 13). Retention of the previously acquired cognition (ie, memory) was assessed weekly on days 20, 27, 34, 41, 48, and 55 and measured by 3 behavioral parameters as follows: (i) latency to find the goal box, (ii) number of reference memory errors, and (iii) number of working memory errors. The extent of pyramidal cell death in the hippocampus was examined at the end of the behavioral analysis on day 43. Fish oil (300 mg/kg DHA, gavage) administration occurred once daily beginning 3 days before TGCI (the last day of training) and continued until day 41. Transient, global cerebral ischemia markedly disrupted memory performance measured by all 3 parameters (P < .0001 vs sham). This amnesic effect of ischemia persisted until the end of the behavioral analysis. Treatment with FO progressively reversed the TGCI-induced retention deficit until rats achieved control levels. This protective effect of FO on learning/memory function was clearly observed after both daily and cumulative data analysis (P < .001-0.01 vs vehicle). Such memory improvements remained statistically significant, even after cessation of FO treatment, indicating a sustained effect of FO. In contrast, FO failed to prevent ischemia-induced hippocampal damage in areas CA1, CA2, or CA4. Therefore, the present findings suggest that long-term FO treatment is able to facilitate functional recovery after ischemic brain damage, an effect that was distinct from hippocampal damage.

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