Food neuropsychology and child brain development
Accumulated adverse events, including insufficient nutrition, throughout pregnancy and infancy can disrupt brain development as well as early learning and cognition. Food neuropsychology research in childhood investigates the pathway from prenatal and postnatal nutrient supply to long-term brain function and mental health. Adequate food supply and nutrition from conception through infancy play an essential role in normal brain development and cognitive functioning and may also influence vulnerability to mental disease later in life. Neurodevelopmental processes, such as neuron proliferation, myelination and synaptogenesis, occur rapidly during pregnancy and infancy and are critically dependent on a sufficient supply of a variety of nutrients, including protein, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, iodine, iron and zinc. The investigation of the molecular basis of food effects on cognition and mood will help ascertain early-life nutritional requirements in order that brain functions and mental fitness may be enhanced. There is currently no convincing evidence of beneficial effects of nutrients or food bioactives in child mental disorders. Numerous issues in the examination of the effects of specific nutrients, including the identification of nutrients critical at different phases of brain development and the optimal dosage and duration of supplementation, require further research.