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The relationship between nutrition and intelligence depends on the organization of certain functional networks of the brain. This is the strong idea of this study from the University of Illinois that highlights the beneficial effects of specific nutrients on the organization of a neural network involved in attention. Its more general objective is to better understand how nutrition can influence the functional organization of the human brain and how it could be used to enhance cognitive performance. Data presented in the journal NeuroImage that participate in the development of a nascent discipline, that of cognitive nutritional neuroscience.
Cognitive performance has already been linked to nutrition and certain nutrients (eg omega-3) in particular, but the connection between nutrition and cognition has never been well understood. This study deciphers the connection between the supply of monounsaturated fatty acids – present in olive oil, nuts and avocados – and intelligence (or cognitive performance).
MUFAs (for monounsaturated fatty acids ) to activate the attention network:previous studies have already suggested the cognitive benefits of the Mediterranean diet, rich in MUFA. Here, the demonstration is made in 99 healthy participants, with the approximation of the data of levels and characteristics of the fatty acids found by the analysis of a blood sample, the fMRI data that measure the efficiency of the cerebral networks and the results of a general intelligence test. This analysis finds that general intelligence is associated with the dorsal attention network of the brain, which plays a key role in demanding tasks and daily problem solving. In particular, researchers find that general intelligence is associated with how the dorsal attention network is functionally organized.
The way in which MUFAs affect cognition: MUFAs thus appear to be linked to a very specific brain network, this dorsal attention network. This is to go further to identify the underlying mechanism that contributes to this relationship and to advance in understanding the processes by which nutrition affects cognition and intelligence. In practice, an intervention study is already planned, which should look at whether and how the long-term contribution of MUFAs influences the organization of this cerebral network.
The new field of nutritional cognitive neuroscience: the task is immense to link nutrients to cognitive benefits via specific networks of the brain. This research already provides evidence of mechanisms by which nutrition affects intelligence.
Source: NeuroImage Sept 2017 DOI: 10.1016 / j.neuroimage.2017.08.043 Nutritional status, brain network organization, and general intelligence (Illustration Graphic by Julie McMahon)
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