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Arachidonic acid (ARA) and DHA, supplied primarily from the mother, are required for early development of the central nervous system. Thus, variations in maternal ARA or DHA status may modify neurocognitive development. We investigated the relationship between maternal ARA and DHA status in early (11·7 weeks) or late (34·5 weeks) pregnancy on neurocognitive function at the age of 4 years or 6-7 years in 724 mother-child pairs from the Southampton Women's Survey cohort. Plasma phosphatidylcholine fatty acid composition was measured in early and late pregnancy. ARA concentration in early pregnancy predicted 13 % of the variation in ARA concentration in late pregnancy (β=0·36, P<0·001). DHA concentration in early pregnancy predicted 21 % of the variation in DHA concentration in late pregnancy (β=0·46, P<0·001). Children's cognitive function at the age of 4 years was assessed by the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence and at the age of 6-7 years by the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence. Executive function at the age of 6-7 years was assessed using elements of the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery. Neither DHA nor ARA concentrations in early or late pregnancy were associated significantly with neurocognitive function in children at the age of 4 years or the age of 6-7 years. These findings suggest that ARA and DHA status during pregnancy in the range found in this cohort are unlikely to have major influences on neurocognitive function in healthy children.

Original publication




Journal article


Br j nutr

Publication Date





1400 - 1407


ARA arachidonic acid, IED intra/extra-dimensional shift, IQ intelligence quotient, PC phosphatidylcholine, SWS Southampton Women’s Survey, Arachidonic acid, DHA, Intelligence quotient, Neurocognition, Pregnancy, Adult, Arachidonic Acid, Child, Child Development, Child, Preschool, Cognition, Cohort Studies, Docosahexaenoic Acids, England, Female, Humans, Male, Maternal-Fetal Exchange, Pregnancy, Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects, Prospective Studies, Wechsler Scales