The Cornell 7-Year Study
The Cornell 7-Year Study, as this landmark paper is being called, is the first human study to show enduring and positive effects on neurocognitive development when tested in 7-year old children of mothers who consumed twice the recommended Adequate Intake (AI) of choline (930mg) during their last trimester of pregnancy. From birth to age 7, these children were not on any special diet, and the study was performed to assess whether there was a difference is various cognitive tests when compared with children from the same study, in which their mothers consumed only the recommended (AI) amount of choline (450mg).
When compared to the control group (480mg choline intake), the children of the 930mg choline cohort demonstrated superior Sustained Attention Task (SAT) scores when tested at age 7. The test administered is best described as follows. A child is put in front of a computer screen and a series of 108 'VISUAL' cues are randomly interspersed with 108 'NON-VISUAL' cues and the child has to press one keyboard key when a visual cue pops onto the screen and another when there is NO visual cue. The visual cue is flashed on the screen for 17, 29 or 50 milliseconds, followed by an audible signal to tell the child to enter a response within 1.5 seconds to hit the appropriate key (visual signal seen or no signal seen). There is audio feedback for a correct response and the next test begins. There are 216 individual tests, divided into three 4-minute blocks and the whole test lasts 12 minutes.
Pretty intense for a 7 year old and requires concentration and attention. Think about it this way, the average interval between commercials on TV is 6 minutes, so 12 minutes on non-passive involvement with 216 right or wrong responses is a lot more challenging than it sounds.
That is why the SAT is considered to be a very accurate and bias-free measure designed to test different aspects of cognitive control or voluntary attention. These include filtering out distractions and suppressing competing predetermined responses. These functions invoke executive function and a better SAT score is a reflection of multiple functions that are required for sustaining effort through a grueling and uninterrupted test. The SAT test is regarded as having excellent reliability and very sensitive to experimental design, chosen to test certain pathways and cognitive function.
The mean SAT score for the children of the 930mg/day cohort was higher across all three signal durations (17, 29 and 50 milliseconds) and more accurately identified visual signals and rejected non-signals (p = 0.02).
This is BIG news. Not just that prenatal intake of choline improves the neurologic function in the children born to those mothers, but that the effect of prenatal choline in the third trimester has an enduring effect on neurocognitive development that can be measured accurately and reliably 7 years later. In other words, its effects are enduring....