This paper reviews the role of the n-3 fatty acids in the regulation of cognitive functions, locomotor and exploratory activity and emotional status in rodents.

There are disparate data on the performance of n-3 fatty acid deficient animals in the open field test and elevated plus maze. Results obtained in our laboratory indicated slower habituation to the open field in deficient mice, which affects total locomotor and exploratory parameters.
We also observed no change in plus maze performance of deficient mice under low-stress but elevated anxiety under high-stress conditions. There is some evidence of elevated aggression and increased immobility time in the forced swimming test caused by n-3 fatty acid deficiency in rodents.

Effects of n-3 fatty acid deficiency and supplementation on learning in several tests such as the Morris water maze, two odor olfactory discriminations, radial arm maze performance and avoidance tasks are reviewed in detail.

There is some evidence of an enhanced vulnerability to stress of n-3 fatty acid deficient animals and this factor can influence performance in a variety of tests.

Thus, behavioral tasks that involve a higher level of stress may better differentiate behavioral effects related to brain docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) status. It is suggested that a fruitful area for future investigations of functional alterations related to brain DHA status will be the delineation of the factors underlying changes in performance in behavioral tasks.

The possible role of non-cognitive factors like emotionality and attention in the impaired performance of n-3 fatty acid deficient animals also requires further investigation.