Deficits in Docosahexaenoic Acid Accrual during Adolescence Reduce Rat Forebrain White Matter Microstructural Integrity: An in vivo Diffusion Tensor Imaging Study

Robert K. McNamara*, Jennifer D. Schurdak, Ruth H. Asch, Bart D. Peters, Diana M. Lindquist

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Neuropsychiatric disorders that frequently initially emerge during adolescence are associated with deficits in the omega-3 (n-3) fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), elevated proinflammatory signaling, and regional reductions in white matter integrity (WMI). This study determined the effects of altering brain DHA accrual during adolescence on WMI in the rat brain by diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), and investigated the potential mediating role of proinflammatory signaling. During periadolescent development, male rats were fed a diet deficient in n-3 fatty acids (DEF, n = 20), a fish oil-fortified diet containing preformed DHA (FO, n = 20), or a control diet (CON, n = 20). In adulthood, DTI scans were performed and brain WMI was determined using voxelwise tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS). Postmortem fatty acid composition, peripheral (plasma IL-1β, IL-6, and C-reactive protein [CRP]) and central (IL-1β and CD11b mRNA) proinflammatory markers, and myelin basic protein (MBP) mRNA expression were determined. Compared with CON rats, forebrain DHA levels were lower in DEF rats and higher in FO rats. Compared with CON rats, DEF rats exhibited greater radial diffusivity (RD) and mean diffusivity in the right external capsule, and greater axial diffusivity in the corpus callosum genu and left external capsule. DEF rats also exhibited greater RD than FO rats in the right external capsule. Forebrain MBP expression did not differ between groups. Compared with CON rats, central (IL-1β and CD11b) and peripheral (IL-1β and IL-6) proinflammatory markers were not different in DEF rats, and DEF rats exhibited lower CRP levels. These findings demonstrate that deficits in adolescent DHA accrual negatively impact forebrain WMI, independently of elevated proinflammatory signaling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-92
Number of pages9
JournalDevelopmental Neuroscience
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes

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