The effects of lutein and zeaxanthin on resting state functional connectivity in older Caucasian adults: a randomized controlled trial

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Brain Imaging and Behavior








Aging; Default mode network; Lutein; Nutrition; Resting state fMRI; Sparse representation


© 2019, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature. The carotenoids lutein (L) and zeaxanthin (Z) accumulate in retinal regions of the eye and have long been shown to benefit visual health. A growing literature suggests cognitive benefits as well, particularly in older adults. The present randomized controlled trial sought to investigate the effects of L and Z on brain function using resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). It was hypothesized that L and Z supplementation would (1) improve intra-network integrity of default mode network (DMN) and (2) reduce inter-network connectivity between DMN and other resting state networks. 48 community-dwelling older adults (mean age = 72 years) were randomly assigned to receive a daily L (10 mg) and Z (2 mg) supplement or a placebo for 1 year. Resting state fMRI data were acquired at baseline and post-intervention. A dictionary learning and sparse coding computational framework, based on machine learning principles, was used to investigate intervention-related changes in functional connectivity. DMN integrity was evaluated by calculating spatial overlap rate with a well-established DMN template provided in the neuroscience literature. Inter-network connectivity was evaluated via time series correlations between DMN and nine other resting state networks. Contrary to expectation, results indicated that L and Z significantly increased rather than decreased inter-network connectivity (Cohen’s d = 0.89). A significant intra-network effect on DMN integrity was not observed. Rather than restoring what has been described in the available literature as a “youth-like” pattern of intrinsic brain activity, L and Z may facilitate the aging brain’s capacity for compensation by enhancing integration between networks that tend to be functionally segregated earlier in the lifespan.

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