Wu A, Ying Z, Gomez-Pinilla F
Omega-3 fatty acids (i.e., docosahexaenoic acid; DHA) regulate signal transduction and gene expression, and protect neurons from death. In this study we examined the capacity of dietary omega3 fatty acids supplementation to help the brain to cope with the effects of traumatic injury. Rats were fed a regular diet or an experimental diet supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids, for 4 weeks before a mild fluid percussion injury (FPI) was performed. FPI increased oxidative stress, and impaired learning ability in the Morris water maze. This type of lesion also reduced levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), synapsin I, and cAMP responsive element-binding protein (CREB). It is known that BDNF facilitates synaptic transmission and learning ability by modulating synapsin I and CREB. Supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet counteracted all of the studied effects of FPI, that is, normalized levels of BDNF and associated synapsin I and CREB, reduced oxidative damage, and counteracted learning disability. The reduction of oxidative stress indicates a benevolent effect of this diet on mechanisms that maintain neuronal function and plasticity. These results imply that omega-3 enriched dietary supplements can provide protection against reduced plasticity and impaired learning ability after traumatic brain injury.