Fatty acid components of infant brain were determined to assess fatty acid requirements for synthesis of structural lipids in brain tissue during the last trimester of development in the fetus. Quantitative fatty acid analysis of cerebellum, frontal and occipital brain lobes indicated rapid accretion of chain elongation and desaturation products during the last trimester of brain growth.

Frontal and occipital brain lobes were similar in fatty acid content. Fatty acid accretion rates were determined by regression analysis of tissue fat components at varying gestational ages. Tissue accretion of saturated and omega-9 fatty acids, as well as total fatty acid content, paralleled increases in whole brain weight.

Levels of linoleic (C18:2, omega-6) and linolenic (C18:3, omega-3) acids were consistently low in brain during the last trimester of development, while marked substantial accretion of long chain desaturation products, arachidonic (C20:4, omega-6) and docosahexaenoic (C22:6, omega-3) acids occurred.

Accretion of individual fatty acids of cerebellum also reflected changes in tissue total fatty acid content, with exception of the levels of C18:3, omega-3 and its chain elongation products present in cerebellum during the last trimester.

These developmental changes and estimates of fatty acid incorporation into whole brain and cerebellum are quantitatively relevant to estimation of fatty acid requirements of the low birth weight neonate.