Honors Senior Theses/Projects

Date of Award



Honors Program

Faculty Advisor

Gavin Keulks

Honors Program Director

Gavin Keulks


Omega -3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (n -3 PUFA) are essential for human health and development. N -3 PUFA researchers have linked n -3 PUFA deficiency to several leading causes of American deaths ( Kung, Hoyert, Xu, & Murphy, 2008 ), including cardiovascular disease (Oomen et al., 2000), cancer (Ge et al., 2002), cerebrovascular accidents (Iso et al., 2001), diabetes mellitus (Gillen, 2005), and Alzheimer's disease (Morris et al., 2003). Developmentally, r esearchers have reported that infants with higher n -3 PUFA intake s perform significantly better on developmental tests compared to infants with lower n -3 PUFA intakes (Carlson et al., 1992; Daniels, Longnecker, Rowland, & Golding, 2004). Additionally, n -3 PUFA have been observed as efficacious in treat ing and preventi ng mood disorders ( Stoll et al., 1999; Williams et al., 2006 ), attention deficit disorder ( Gadoth, 2008 ), and autism ( Amminger et al., 2007; Bell et al., 2004). In this study, we investigated the cognitive benefits of n -3 PUFA on healthy, college -aged individuals. Participants completed a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) designed to measure n -3 PUFA. Low n -3 PUFA consumers (n=31) and high n -3 PUFA consumers (n=32) completed three cognitive assessments: a digit -span test, a Stroop Test, and a Trail Making Test. A series of t -tests and ANOVA tests indicated that there were no significant differences in the above cognitive measures as a function of self -reported n -3 PUFA intake (i.e., high or low). These results could have derived from participant error in reporting n -3 PUFA intake. As well, the FFQ scoring could have misattributed the n -3 PUFA values of certain foods. Though these results indicate that there were no cognitive benefits associated with high n -3 PUFA consumption, the cognitive benefits of n -3 PUFA require more research across populations of different ages.