Prenatal n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids and children’s executive functions

Jacqueline F. Gould, Lisa G. Smithers

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid that accumulates in neural tissues during intrauterine development, particularly in the frontal lobes of the brain. The frontal lobes are responsible for a suite of cognitive abilities referred to as ‘executive functions.' Executive function skills include attention, working memory (the ability to mentally manipulation information), and inhibitory control (the ability to control or supress inappropriate actions). In this chapter, we briefly review the development of the human brain and the accumulation of DHA in the brain. The main focus is on summarizing the evidence from randomized controlled trials that have supplemented pregnant women with DHA and measured the effects on children’s executive functions. We provide details of the different assessments of executive function that have been used in trials, and summarize the evidence base with respect to dose of DHA used in trials and age when executive functions are measured. We conclude with some recommendations for future trials in this area.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOmega Fatty Acids in Brain and Neurological Health
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9780128152386
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 1 Jan 2019


  • Attention
  • Docosahexaenoic acid
  • Executive function
  • Inhibitory control
  • Randomized controlled trial
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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