Graduation Year


Date of Thesis Acceptance

Spring 5-13-2015

Major Department or Program



Wally Herbranson


The regular consumption of Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) has been identified as a key element for both the development and retention of cognitive abilities. Similarly, consumption of EFAs during early childhood is associated with enhanced cognitive development. While several aspects of cognition such as attention, memory, and decision making naturally decline with old age, the consumption of EFAs has been shown to slow down natural cognitive decline. Furthermore, previous research has identified that EFA consumption positively correlates with dopamine (Da) neurotransmission, and Da promotes learning within several areas of the brain. Thus, EFAs may have their effects on cognition via dopamine. Therefore, this study hopes to fill the gap in previous research by testing the effect of Omega-3 fatty acid intake on attention, memory, and decision-making in college students. College-aged students were asked to keep a dietary intake log for 5 days before taking a series of cognitive tests. Based on previous research, we hypothesized that when compared to students with a lower Omega-3 diet, students with a higher Omega-3 diet would demonstrate better performance on 1) long-term memory 2) short-term memory 3) impulsivity 4) visual attention, and lastly, 5) mental imagery. The general results of this study showed no significant relationship between Omega-3 intake and cognitive abilities. Future research will help determine if the effect of EFAs on cognition is consistent across the lifespan, or if their influence is specific to the developmental and elderly stages.

Page Count


Subject Headings

Essential Fatty Acids -- Analysis, Memory - Mental recall, Omega-2 Fatty Acids -- n-3 Fatty Acids, Dopamine -- Dopaminergic, Psychology of Learning -- Case studies, Memory -- Short term memory -- Working memory -- Immediate recall, Thinking -- Decision making -- Methods, Social sciences, Whitman College -- Dissertation collection 2015 -- Psychology Department

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Document Type

Whitman Community Accessible Thesis

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