Dietary Fatty Acid Content and Nuerogenesis: Identification of Specific Fatty Acids Correlated with Nuerogenesis in European Starlings, Sturnus Vulgaris

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The process of neurogenesis is continuous throughout the life of most mammals, specifically in the vertebrate brain. It also plays a major role in the initial growth of the nervous system. In birds neurons are generated from neural stem cells throughout the telencephalon into adulthood. This neurogenesis can be upregulated by fatty acids and other dietary supplements. Strenuous exercise has also been associated with having a strong effect on neuroproliferation. In European Starlings, HVC, a nucleus involved in learning and production of birdsong, can be used to analyze neuronal recruitment because HVC is associated with song modification that has a resulting growth in volume. This neuron recruitment and neuron migration is significantly influenced by dietary fatty acids. In this study four diet groups were used, each group consisted of 15 individuals who experienced flight training in a wind tunnel and 10 who did not. The four diet groups were defined by two factors, polyunsaturated fatty acid content either high or low (32% vs. 13%), and endogenous antioxidants (high or low). The brain samples of sacrificed birds were then analyzed for fatty acid composition. This consisted of a total lipid extraction from the brain tissue, followed by a separation of the fatty acid classes, and lastly transesterification of the separated lipids prior to gas chromatographic analysis. Preliminary results suggest that there is a correlation between diet, fatty acid composition of brain tissue, and neural genesis.


Eastern Colleges Science Conference, Wilkes-Barre, PA April 2017. Retrieved from Program at

Mentored by Professor Barbara Pierce.

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