Nutritional status, brain network organization, and general intelligence
The high energy demands of the brain underscore the importance of nutrition in maintaining brain health and further indicate that aspects of nutrition may optimize brain health, in turn enhancing cognitive performance. General intelligence represents a critical cognitive ability that has been well characterized by cognitive neuroscientists and psychologists alike, but the extent to which a driver of brain health, namely nutritional status, impacts the neural mechanisms that underlie general intelligence is not understood. This study therefore examined the relationship between the intrinsic connectivity networks supporting general intelligence and nutritional status, focusing on nutrients known to impact the metabolic processes that drive brain function. We measured general intelligence, favorable connective architecture of seven intrinsic connectivity networks, and seventeen plasma phospholipid monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids in a sample of 99 healthy, older adults. A mediation analysis was implemented to investigate the relationship between empirically derived patterns of fatty acids, general intelligence, and underlying intrinsic connectivity networks. The mediation analysis revealed that small world propensity within one intrinsic connectivity network supporting general intelligence, the dorsal attention network, was promoted by a pattern of monounsaturated fatty acids. These results suggest that the efficiency of functional organization within a core network underlying general intelligence is influenced by nutritional status. This report provides a novel connection between nutritional status and functional network efficiency, and further supports the promise and utility of functional connectivity metrics in studying the impact of nutrition on cognitive and brain health.