The omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), has been shown to promote recovery of motor function after spinal cord injury. This is likely to be at least partly due to neuroprotective effects of DHA. However, recent studies have shown that DHA also supports neuroplasticity after injury, such as promoting sprouting of spared corticospinal tract (CST) axons. In this chapter, we review the published studies showing that DHA promotes recovery of motor function in rodent models of spinal cord injury (SCI), and consider the available data on the underlying mechanisms. This includes effects on inflammation and on neuronal and oligodendrocyte survival at the injury site, and effects on spared CST axons and serotonergic axons. Current data support the hypothesis that DHA promotes recovery of motor function by both neuroprotection and neuroplasticity mechanisms. The significance of this, and the implications of combining DHA with rehabilitation strategies, will be discussed.
Part of the book: Recovery of Motor Function Following Spinal Cord Injury