The beneficial effects of prenatal and early postnatal intakes of omega-3 (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) on cognitive development during infancy are well recognized. However, few studies have examined the extent to which these benefits continue to be evident in childhood.

The aim of this study was to examine the relation of n-3 PUFAs and seafood-contaminant intake with memory function in school-age children from a fish-eating community.

In a prospective, longitudinal study in Arctic Quebec, we assessed Inuit children (n = 154; mean age: 11.3 y) by using a continuous visual recognition task to measure 2 event-related potential components related to recognition memory processing: the FN400 and the late positive component (LPC). Children were also examined by using 2 well-established neurobehavioral assessments of memory: the Digit span forward from Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children, 4th edition, and the California Verbal Learning Test-Children's Version.

Repeated-measures analyses of variance revealed that children with higher cord plasma concentrations of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is an important n-3 PUFA, had a shorter FN400 latency and a larger LPC amplitude; and higher plasma DHA concentrations at the time of testing were associated with increased FN400 amplitude. Cord DHA-related effects were observed regardless of seafood-contaminant amounts. Multiple regression analyses also showed positive associations between cord DHA concentrations and performance on neurobehavioral assessments of memory.

To our knowledge, this study provides the first neurophysiologic and neurobehavioral evidence of long-term beneficial effects of n-3 PUFA intake in utero on memory function in school-age children.