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Inside the Lab

The Maternal and Child Nutrition and Development Laboratory conducts research regarding docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) intake during pregnancy and infancy. The lab also studies the effect of DHA on infant/child development including cognitive and visual acuity development.

The Maternal and Child Nutrition and Development Laboratory serves as a training ground for students working towards their master's and doctorate degrees in nutrition and cognitive development.

In the lab, students are involved in the recruitment of potential research participants, developmental and cognitive testing, nutritional assessments, computerized analyses of assessment results, statistical analysis of results, and preparation of scholarly articles.

Led by Susan Carlson, Ph.D., John Colombo, Ph.D., and Kathleen Gustafson, Ph.D., these world-renowned experts in their fields are the principal investigators in this highly interdisciplinary collaboration.

Multiple large, randomized-controlled trials make up the majority of the laboratory’s research. Supported by a combination of private and federal funding – specifically from the NIH's National Institute of Child Health and Development – the primary aim of these studies is to determine if DHA during early life can affect vision, attention and early-stage learning. All work in the laboratory complies with the policies on the protection of subjects of the Human Subjects Committee at KU Medical

DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid found in high concentrations in the brain and retina. Breast milk (and since 2002, formulas in the U.S.), contain DHA. Many studies have shown DHA in the diet helps an infant's vision, attention and ability to learn.

In this way, DHA is considered an important nutrient for babies after they are born.

School of Health Professions

Dietetics and Nutrition
KU Medical Center
3901 Rainbow Boulevard
Mailstop 4013
Kansas City, KS 66160
913-588-5355 • 711 TTY