Prenatal DHA and neurofunctional development
National Institutes of Health
The critical need to learn at what point prenatal docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) insufficiency limits offspring neurodevelopment and whether this has a programming effect on the developing nervous system is addressed by the NIH R01 research project entitled "Prenatal DHA & Neurofunctional Development.” Dr. Dirk Hoyer (Jena University Hospital, UKJ) participates in this double-blind, Phase III Randomized Clinical Trial of maternal DHA supplementation during the last two trimesters of pregnancy. Pregnant women (n=180/group) are randomized to either 200 or 800 mg DHA/day. Maternal and infant blood samples for fatty acid analysis, maternal diet history (DHQ-II), and longitudinal measures of brain and cardiac electrophysiology from 24 weeks gestational age (GA) to 18 months postnatal age using innovative fetal biomagnetometry and cortical magnetoencephalography (MEG) with simultaneous electroencephalography (EEG) are collected. UKJ contributes by the analysis of fetal heart rate variability (HRV) and fetal functional brain age score (fABAS) (developed by Dr. Hoyer) with respect to Aim 2: Establish whether failure to achieve DHA equilibrium constrains fetal neurodevelopment. We predict that DHA insufficiency will result in lower fetal HRV and fABAS scores determined from magnetocardiograms (MCG) recorded at 32 and 36 weeks gestational age (GA), and Aim 3: Determine if fetal neurodevelopmental scores predict infant neurodevelopment. We predict that DHA insufficiency and lower fABAS scores will predict infant neurodevelopment. The expected insight into fetal brain development and mechanisms underlying early cognitive function as related to DHA supplementation could lead to dietary recommendations during pregnancy, especially in populations where the nutritional status of the diet is suboptimal.