BACKGROUND: Inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness are the main symptoms of the heterogeneous attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It has been suggested that ADHD is associated with an imbalance in polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) composition, with abnormal low levels of the main n-3 PUFA, DHA (22: 6n-3). DHA is highly accumulated in nervous tissue membranes and is implicated in neural function. Animal studies have shown that diet-induced lack of DHA in the brain leads to alterations in cognitive processes, but the relationship between DHA and hyperactivity is unclear.

STUDY: We examined the membrane phospholipid fatty acid profile in frontal cortex of rats characterized for attention, impulsiveness and motricity in various environmental contexts to determine the relationship between brain PUFA composition and the symptoms of ADHD. The amounts of n-3 PUFA in the PE were significantly correlated with nocturnal locomotor activity and the locomotor response to novelty: hyperactive individuals had less n-3 PUFA than hypoactive ones.

CONCLUSION: We conclude that spontaneous hyperactivity in rats is the symptom of ADHD that best predicts the n-3 PUFA content of the frontal cortex. This differential model in rats should help to better understand the role of PUFA in several psychopathologies in which PUFA composition is modified.