Study Reviews

The role of nutrient biomarker patterns and cognitive neuroscience in characterising nutrition in brain ageing

  • 02/21/2019

One of the main aims in the field of psychology and neuroscience is to establish innovative lines of research that define methodologies to promote healthy brain ageing. Accumulated scientific evidence indicates that diet and bioactive substances present in food are reasonable interventions to study for dementia prevention. However, interdisciplinary research that applies methods from nutritional epidemiology and neuroscience to investigate the role of nutrition in shaping the functional brain network is yet to be defined. Therefore, the authors sought to combine methods from all disciplines, using nutrient biomarker patterns (NBP) to identify the effects of plasma nutrients in combination and examine their influence on measures of functional brain network efficiency, measured by functional MRI scan. The researchers studied the contribution of NBPs on multiple cognition and brain health indices among elderly non-demented subjects (n = 116), investigating performance on measures of general intelligence, executive function and memory, and resting state-functional MRI. Statistical moderation was used to investigate whether NBPs influenced network efficiency and cognitive outcomes. The results revealed five NBPs that were associated with enhanced cognitive performance, including biomarker patterns high in plasma, ω-3 and ω-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), lycopene, ω-3 PUFA, carotenoids and vitamins B (riboflavin, folate, B12) and D. Furthermore, three NBPs (ω-6 PUFA, ω-3 PUFA and carotenes) were associated with enhanced functional brain network efficiency, including biomarker patterns high in plasma. Finally, ω-3 PUFA moderated the fronto-parietal network and general intelligence, while ω-6 PUFA and lycopene moderated the dorsal attention network and executive function. In short, NBPs account for a significant proportion of the variance in measures of cognitive performance and functional brain network activity. The results motivate a multidisciplinary approach that applies methods from nutritional epidemiology (NBP analysis) and cognitive neuroscience (functional brain network efficiency) to characterise the impact of nutrition on human health, ageing and disease.