Transport, synthesis, and utilization of brain fatty acids and other lipids have been topics of investigation for more than a century, yet many fundamental aspects are unresolved and, indeed, subject to controversy. Understanding the mechanisms by which lipids cross the blood brain barrier and how they are utilized by neurons and glia is critical to understanding normal brain development and function, for the diagnosis and therapy of human diseases, and for the planning and delivery of optimal human nutrition throughout the world. Two particularly important fatty acids, both of which are abundant in neuronal membranes are: (a) the omega3 polyunsaturated fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid, deficiencies of which can impede brain development and compromise optimal brain function, and (b) the omega6 polyunsaturated fatty acid arachidonic acid, which yields essential, but potentially toxic, metabolic products.

There is an exciting emerging evidence that modulating dietary intake of these fatty acids could have a beneficial effect on human neurological health.

A workshop was held in October, 2004, in which investigators from diverse disciplines interacted to present new findings and to discuss issues relevant to lipid uptake, utilization, and metabolism in the brain. The objectives of this workshop were:
(1) to assess the state-of-the-art of research in brain fatty acid/lipid uptake and utilization;
(2) to discuss progress in understanding molecular mechanisms and the treatment of neurological diseases related to lipids and lipoproteins;
(3) to identify areas in which current knowledge is insufficient;
(4) to provide recommendations for future research; and
(5) to stimulate the interest and involvement of additional neuroscientists, particularly young scientists, in these areas.

The meeting was divided into four sessions:
(1) mechanisms of lipid uptake and transport in the brain,
(2) lipoproteins and polyunsaturated fatty acids,
(3) eicosanoids in brain function, and
(4) fatty acids and lipids in brain disorders. In this article, we will provide an overview of the topics discussed in these sessions.