Specific memory deficits, reduced intellectual processing speed, and a variety of social and behavioral problems have been implicated as long-term effects of cranial radiation therapy (CRT). These deficits are thought to be related to changes in brain cytology and structure associated with microvascular aberrations. N-3 fatty acids may serve as protectants in pediatric patients who receive CRT for brain tumors. Timed-pregnant rat dams were fed one of four diets that were identical in all respects, except for their essential fatty acid content. The dams were placed on these diets at the beginning of the third trimester of gestation and their pups remained on them throughout the study. The rats’ behavioral response as judged by acoustic startle response (ASR) and neurocognitive response (performance in a radial maze, RM) were evaluated in relation to diet, gender, and CRT. The following hypotheses were tested: (1) female rats will show greater CRT-induced neurocognitive and behavioral deficits; (2) dietary n-3 fatty acids will diminish CRT-induced neurocognitive and behavioral deficits; (3) gender-specific differences would be dampened by n-3 fatty acids in the diet. All three hypotheses were partially supported. These findings are discussed in light of the potential neuroprotective effects of n-3 fatty acids
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