Alterations in two components of the brain's insulin signaling pathway, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) content and phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) activity, have been implicated in the insulin resistance that is central to type II diabetes mellitus (DM). A 2- to 3-fold increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease (AD) in patients with type II DM suggests a potential link between cognition and insulin action. The current study was designed to examine the impact of DHA dietary content and PI3K activity on learning, memory, depression, and anxiety in rodents. Mice were divided into the following groups: (1) control diet and vehicle injection (control PI3K), (2) control diet and wortmannin injection (PI3K inhibition), (3) low DHA diet and vehicle, and (4) low DHA diet and wortmannin. Each group was assessed for effects on activity, cognition, depression, and anxiety. Concentrations of glucose and insulin in plasma were quantified to confirm insulin resistance. Results showed significant increases in depression, anxiety, plasma insulin and glucose, and significant decreases in activity in wortmannin-treated mice regardless of diet. The control diet/wortmannin-treated group showed a significant decrease in memory compared to all other groups.

The low DHA diet/wortmannin-treated group had slightly improved memory and lower levels of depression compared to the control diet/wortmannin-treated group.

Results of the present study suggest that inhibition of PI3K decreases activity and memory while increasing insulin resistance, depression, and anxiety. In addition, these results suggest a possible compensatory role of low DHA in decreasing the effects of dysfunctional PI3K in AD associated cognitive decline and depression.

Keywords: brain health, depression, Alzheimer’s disease