This multi-modal investigation aimed to refine analytic tools including proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) and fatty acid gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) analysis, for use with adult and paediatric populations, to investigate potential biochemical underpinnings of cognition (Chapter 1). Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are vital for the normal development and function of neural cells. There is increasing evidence of behavioural impairments arising from dietary deprivation of EFAs and their long-chain fatty acid metabolites (Chapter 2). Paediatric liver disease was used as a deficiency model to examine the relationships between EFA status and cognitive outcomes. Age-appropriate Wechsler assessments measured Full-scale IQ (FSIQ) and Information Processing Speed (IPS) in clinical and healthy cohorts; GC-MS quantified surrogate markers of EFA status in erythrocyte membranes; and 1H-MRS quantified neurometabolite markers of neuronal viability and function in cortical tissue (Chapter 3). Post-transplant children with early-onset liver disease demonstrated specific deficits in IPS compared to age-matched acute liver failure transplant patients and sibling controls, suggesting that the time-course of the illness is a key factor (Chapter 4). No signs of EFA deficiency were observed in the clinical cohort, suggesting that EFA metabolism was not significantly impacted by liver disease. A strong, negative correlation was observed between omega-6 fatty acids and FSIQ, independent of disease diagnosis (Chapter 5). In a study of healthy adults, effect sizes for the relationship between 1H-MRS- detectable neurometabolites and cognition fell within the range of previous work, but were not statistically significant. Based on these findings, recommendations are made emphasising the need for hypothesis-driven enquiry and greater subtlety of data analysis (Chapter 6). Consistency of metabolite values between paediatric clinical cohorts and controls indicate normal neurodevelopment, but the lack of normative, age-matched data makes it difficult to assess the true strength of liver disease-associated metabolite changes (Chapter 7). Converging methods offer a challenging but promising and novel approach to exploring brain-behaviour relationships from micro- to macroscopic levels of analysis (Chapter 8).
- Magnetic resonance spectroscopy
- gas chromatography-mass spectrometry
- essential fatty acids
- liver disease