Early supplementation of phospholipids and gangliosides affects brain and cognitive development in neonatal piglets

Hongnan Liu, Emily C. Radlowski, Matthew S. Conrad, Yao Li, Ryan N. Dilger, Rodney W. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Because human breast milk is a rich source of phospholipids and gangliosides and breastfed infants have improved learning compared with formula-fed infants, the importance of dietary phospholipids and gangliosides for brain development is of interest. Objective: We sought to determine the effects of phospholipids and gangliosides on brain and cognitive development. Methods: Male and female piglets from multiple litters were artificially reared and fed formula containing 0% (control), 0.8%, or 2.5% Lacprodan PL-20 (PL-20; Arla Foods Ingredients), a phospholipid/ganglioside supplement, from postnatal day (PD) 2 to PD28. Beginning on PD14, performance in a spatial T-maze task was assessed. At PD28, brain MRI data were acquired and piglets were killed to obtain hippocampal tissue for metabolic profiling. Results: Diet affected maze performance, with piglets that were fed 0.8% and 2.5% PL-20 making fewer errors than control piglets (80% vs. 75% correct on average; P < 0.05) and taking less time to make a choice (3 vs. 5 s/trial; P < 0.01). Mean brain weight was 5% higher for piglets fed 0.8% and 2.5% PL-20 (P < 0.05) than control piglets, and voxel-based morphometry revealed multiple brain areas with greater volumes and more gray and white matter in piglets fed 0.8% and 2.5% PL-20 than in control piglets. Metabolic profiling of hippocampal tissue revealed that multiple phosphatidylcholinerelated metabolites were altered by diet. Conclusion: In summary, dietary phospholipids and gangliosides improved spatial learning and affected brain growth and composition in neonatal piglets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1903-1909
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2014


  • 23 ganglioside
  • Brain
  • Cognition
  • Phospholipid
  • Piglet

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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