, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 85–90

A randomized trial of visual attention of preterm infants fed docosahexaenoic acid until two months

  • Susan E. Carlson
  • Susan H. Werkman
Symposium on Dietary Fat and Neural Development

DOI: 10.1007/BF02522416

Cite this article as:
Carlson, S.E. & Werkman, S.H. Lipids (1996) 31: 85. doi:10.1007/BF02522416


This was a randomized, double-blind trial to determine if a nutrient-enriched (preterm) formula supplemented with 0.2% docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22∶6n−3) from a low eicosapentaenoic acid (0.06%) source of marine oil would enhance visual novelty preference and attention of preterm infants. Both the standard and experimental formulas contained 3% of total fatty acids as linolenic acid (18∶3n−3) and were fed from approximately three days of age to two months past term. After two months, both diet groups were fed a commercially-available term formula with linolenic acid as the only source of n−3 fatty acid. At 12 mo visual recognition memory (novelty preference) and visual attention (number and duration of discrete looks) were determined with the Fagan Test of Infant Intelligence. The DHA-supplemented group compared with the control group had more and shorter duration looks in comparisons of familiar and novel stimuli, confirming earlier evidence that DHA can increase information processing speed of preterm infants who otherwise are receiving good intakes of linolenic acid. Because supplementation was stopped at two months and the effects seen at 12 mon, this study demonstrates for the first time that a relatively short period of DHA supplementation can produce significant effects on later visual attention.



arachidonic acid


bronchopulmonary dysplasia


docosahexaenoic acid


eicosapentaenoic acid




postmenstrual age


red blood cell

Copyright information

© AOCS Press 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan E. Carlson
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Susan H. Werkman
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PediatricsThe University of Tennessee, MemphisMemphis
  2. 2.Department of Obstetrics and GynecologyThe University of Tennessee, MemphisMemphis
  3. 3.Department of BiochemistryThe University of Tennessee, MemphisMemphis
  4. 4.Newborn CenterMemphis