Ingested polyunsaturated fatty acids are postulated to lead to changes in central nervous system activity, presumably by altering the lipid composition of neuronal membranes.

In support of this hypothesis, we and other investigators have previously demonstrated cognitive effects in rats fed oils that contain both alpha-linolenic acid (18:3 omega 3) and linoleic acid (18:2 omega 6), with the relative content of alpha-linolenic acid being seen as the critical variable.

The present study in rats examined the effects of preparations containing different ratios of highly purified free alpha-linolenic acid to linoleic acid (about 25 mg/kg of body weight daily) on learning performance (Morris water tank), pain thresholds (heated plate), and thermoregulatory control of d-amphetamine-induced hypothermia during 4 weeks of treatment.

Preparations with omega 3-to-omega 6 ratios ranging from 1:3.5 to 1:5 (specifically a ratio of 1:4) produced significant favorable effects on all of these variables.

Although the specific mode of action remains to be elucidated, these results suggest that such preparations of free fatty acids should be evaluated in the treatment of memory disorders and pain conditions.

PMID: 7901853

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