KU team shows nutritional compound in mothers linked to infant development

A study that showed that infants whose mothers have higher levels of an essential omega-3 fatty acid show more advanced cognitive development directed by John Colombo, Susan Carlson and Kathleen Kannass attracted wide attention in 2004.

The researchers found that doco-sahexaenoic acid (DHA), which affects brain and eye development, is derived by fetuses from their mothers and accumulates in the brain primarily in the third trimester.

They measured the DHA levels of 70 mothers’ blood when their infants were born and then followed the infants for the first two years of their lives, evaluating them on different tests of attention during the first and second years. 

Colombo is the Life Span’s associate director for cognitive neuroscience and professor of psychology; Carlson, professor of nutrition at the KU Medical Center, and Kathleen Kannass, research associate at the Life Span Institute, now an assistant professor of psychology at Loyola University.