The present thesis is based on data collected as part of a large multi-centre and multi-disciplinary longitudinal study initiated by the Department of Nutrition, Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo.
Objective: The aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of human milk supplemented with docosahexaenoic acid and arachidonic acid to preterm infants. Cognitive processes at six months corrected age served as the primary end point. Methods: The study was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of infants of very low birth weight (≤1500 g). The intervention started one week after birth and lasted until discharge from the hospital (on average 9 weeks). A group of infants born at term represented a normal control group. A modified oddball paradigm eliciting event-related potential thought to reflect visual recognition memory and attentional processes (the Negative Component; NC), in addition to the parent-administered Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) served as outcome measures.Key results: At six months of age, the VLBW intervention group exhibited NC amplitudes comparable to the full-term infants in response to the familiar stimuli. The VLBW control group differed significantly on this measure from the VLBW intervention group, with the former group showing higher amplitudes. No differences were found between the VLBW groups in the novelty condition. In addition, the VLBW groups differed significantly in the problem solving subsection of the ASQ.Conclusion: Supplementation with docosahexaenoic acid and arachidonic acid for VLBW infants in the early neonatal period may improve attentional and/or memory processing, as well as problem-solving skills. The NC may prove useful in investigations of information processing skills in at-risk developmental populations.