Monday, May 16, 2011


Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a phospholipid (type of fat) that occurs naturally in all cells of the body, with particularly high concentrations in the brain. Serine has been found to be low in those with Down syndrome and since PS has been used in several studies with positive results in treating Alzheimer's patients, it's an interesting supplement to study in relation to Down syndrome.

Healthy cell membranes in the brain function to provide protection and to safely transport nutrients and waste. Cell membranes are a kind of "skin" that surrounds living cells. Phosphatidylserine is a healthy brain fat that is the building block in all cell membranes, especially brain cells.
  • PS is an important part of neuron cell membranes. Its function is to ensure that the neuron retains healthy synaptic plasticity, which promotes the optimal functioning of the brain cells. Aging results in lower amounts of PS in the neurons.
  • PS administered to aged rats resulted in increased release of acetylcholine at the neuronal synapses comparable to young rats. In terms of memory performance, the improvement seen in the older rats was significant.
  • It is an essential cell membrane component for nerve cells; playing a key role in communication across synapses between nerve cells, and reverses loss of membrane fluidity associated with age-related mental decline
  • PS also improves high levels of stress hormones (ACTH and cortisol) and helps prevent memory loss and other cognitive decline. PS is a cortisol receptor sensitizer, resulting in improved levels and efficient use of cortisol
  • It is also a very effective antidepressant because it can normalize the adaptive homeostat (HPA-axis).  

At the Tel-Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, Tel-Aviv, in Israel, 157 participants received either PS-DHA or placebo for 15 weeks. Results indicate that phosphatidylserine-DHA may improve cognitive performance in non-demented elderly with memory complaints. 

Pauline Coti Bertrand, John R. O'Kusky and Sheila M. Innis3
The Nutrition Research Program, Child and Family Research Institute, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V5Z 4H4, Canada
3 To whom correspondence should be addressed: E-mail


Docosahexaenoic acid [22:6(n-3)] is enriched in brain membrane phospholipids and essential for brain function. Neurogenesis during embryonic and fetal development requires synthesis of large amounts of membrane phospholipid. We determined whether dietary (n-3) fatty acid deficiency during gestation alters neurogenesis in the embryonic rat brain. Female rats were fed diets with 1.3% energy [(n-3) control] or 0.02% energy [(n-3) deficient], from α-linolenic acid [18:3(n-3)], beginning 2 wk before gestation. Morphometric analyses were performed on embryonic day 19 to measure the mean thickness of the neuroepithelial proliferative zones corresponding to the cerebral cortex (ventricular and subventricular zones) and dentate gyrus (primary dentate neuroepithelium), and the thickness of the cortical plate and sectional area of the dentate gyrus. Phospholipids and fatty acids were determined by HPLC and GLC. Docosahexaenoic acid was 55–65% lower and (n-6) docosapentaenoic acid [22:5(n-6)] was 150–225% higher in brain phospholipids at embryonic day 19 in the (n-3) deficient (n = 6 litters) than in the control (n = 5 litters) group. The mean thickness of the cortical plate and mean sectional area of the primordial dentate gyrus were 26 and 48% lower, respectively, and the mean thicknesses of the cortical ventricular zone and the primary dentate neuroepithelium were 110 and 70% higher, respectively, in the (n-3) deficient than in the control embryonic day 19 embryos. These studies demonstrate that (n-3) fatty acid deficiency alters neurogenesis in the embryonic rat brain, which could be explained by delay or inhibition of normal development.



  1. Suzuki S, et al. Oral administration of soybean lecithin transphosphatidylated phosphatidylserine improves memory impairment in aged rats. J Nutr. 2001 Nov;131(11):2951-6.
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