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Open AccessArticle

Lutein and Zeaxanthin Are Positively Associated with Visual–Spatial Functioning in Older Adults: An fMRI Study

Department of Psychology, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA
Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA 02114, USA
Institute of Gerontology, Department of Health Promotions and Behavior, College of Public Health, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Nutrients 2018, 10(4), 458;
Received: 8 March 2018 / Revised: 29 March 2018 / Accepted: 4 April 2018 / Published: 7 April 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Nutrition and the Function of the Central Nervous System)
Lutein (L) and zeaxanthin (Z) are two xanthophyll carotenoids that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Previous work has demonstrated their importance for eye health and preventing diseases such as age-related macular degeneration. An emerging literature base has also demonstrated the importance of L and Z in cognition, neural structure, and neural efficiency. The present study aimed to better understand the mechanisms by which L and Z relate to cognition, in particular, visual–spatial processing and decision-making in older adults. We hypothesized that markers of higher levels of L and Z would be associated with better neural efficiency during a visual–spatial processing task. L and Z were assessed via standard measurement of blood serum and retinal concentrations. Visual–spatial processing and decision-making were assessed via a judgment of line orientation task (JLO) completed during a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan. The results demonstrated that individuals with higher concentrations of L and Z showed a decreased blood-oxygen-level dependent (BOLD) signal during task performance (i.e., “neural efficiency”) in key areas associated with visual–spatial perception, processing, decision-making, and motor coordination, including the lateral occipital cortex, occipital pole, superior and middle temporal gyri, superior parietal lobule, superior and middle frontal gyri, and pre- and post-central gyri. To our knowledge, this is the first investigation of the relationship of L and Z to visual–spatial processing at a neural level using in vivo methodology. Our findings suggest that L and Z may impact brain health and cognition in older adults by enhancing neurobiological efficiency in a variety of regions that support visual perception and decision-making. View Full-Text
Keywords: xanthophylls; visual-spatial reasoning; fMRI; older adults; cognition xanthophylls; visual-spatial reasoning; fMRI; older adults; cognition
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Mewborn, C.M.; Lindbergh, C.A.; Robinson, T.L.; Gogniat, M.A.; Terry, D.P.; Jean, K.R.; Hammond, B.R.; Renzi-Hammond, L.M.; Miller, L.S. Lutein and Zeaxanthin Are Positively Associated with Visual–Spatial Functioning in Older Adults: An fMRI Study. Nutrients 2018, 10, 458.

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