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A mind cleared by walnut oil: The effects of polyunsaturated and saturated fat on extinction learning

Miller, Holly C., Struyf, Dieter, Baptist, Pascale, Dalile, Boushra, Van Oudenhove, Lukas, Van Diest, Ilse
Appetite 2018 v.126 pp. 147-155
alpha-linolenic acid, chocolate, learning, milkshakes, neurophysiology, perilla oil, prediction, rapeseed oil, rats, saturated fats, walnut oil, young adults
The treatment of anxiety-based psychopathology often hinges upon extinction learning. Research in nutritional neuroscience has observed that the regular consumption of perilla oil (50% alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)) facilitates extinction learning in rats (Yamamoto et al., 1988). However, acute facilitation of extinction learning by oils rich in ALA has not been reported for rats or humans, though the acute consumption of rapeseed oil (10% ALA) has been observed to improve cognitive processing speed in humans (Jones, Sünram-Lea, & Wesnes, 2012). For this reason, the present laboratory work examined the effects of adding walnut oil (12% ALA) to a chocolate milkshake on the acquisition, generalization, and extinction of a fear-based prediction in young adults. It compared performance between subjects. The other participants consumed a similar milkshake with either an equicaloric amount of cream (saturated fat), or with no added fat (control). Acquisition and generalization of the fear-based prediction were similar for all groups. However, those who consumed walnut oil extinguished most rapidly and profoundly. Implications for extinction learning are discussed.