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J Neurosci. 2014 Feb 5;34(6):2065-74. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3038-13.2014.

Dietary omega-3 fatty acids modulate large-scale systems organization in the rhesus macaque brain.

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Center for Neuroscience, University of California, Davis, California 95616, Department of Behavioral Neuroscience, Advanced Imaging Research Center, Casey Eye Institute, and Department of Psychiatry, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, Oregon 97239, and Division of Neuroscience, Oregon National Primate Research Center, Beaverton, Oregon 97006.


Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for healthy brain and retinal development and have been implicated in a variety of neurodevelopmental disorders. This study used resting-state functional connectivity MRI to define the large-scale organization of the rhesus macaque brain and changes associated with differences in lifetime ω-3 fatty acid intake. Monkeys fed docosahexaenoic acid, the long-chain ω-3 fatty acid abundant in neural membranes, had cortical modular organization resembling the healthy human brain. In contrast, those with low levels of dietary ω-3 fatty acids had decreased functional connectivity within the early visual pathway and throughout higher-order associational cortex and showed impairment of distributed cortical networks. Our findings illustrate the similarity in modular cortical organization between the healthy human and macaque brain and support the notion that ω-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in developing and/or maintaining distributed, large-scale brain systems, including those essential for normal cognitive function.


DHA; brain organization; functional connectivity; macaque development; omega-3 fatty acids; visual pathway

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