Honors Theses and Capstones

Date of Award

Spring 2024

Project Type

Senior Honors Thesis


Biological Sciences

Program or Major

Neuroscience and Behavior

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

First Advisor

Sherman Bigornia


Johanna Koroma, Anne Bodenrader, and Sherman Bigornia


Fish intake has been linked to certain neural benefits, specifically in slowing cognitive decline and attenuating depressive symptoms. However, existing evidence is conflicting and insufficient. The present study aimed to investigate the association of fish consumption with depressive symptoms and cognitive function among Puerto Rican adults.


Data is acquired from the Boston Puerto Rican Health Study, comprised of 1517 adults residing in the Boston Metro Area. Dietary patterns were evaluated using a validated food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) with follow-up surveys conducted 2 years from baseline. Consumption was organized into quartiles based on servings per day, with the highest quartile reflecting the greatest amount of fish consumption. Depressive symptoms were measured with a scale from the Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression (CES-D), a 20-item questionnaire with scores ranging from 0-60; higher scores indicate more severe symptoms. To assess cognitive function, a battery of tests was combined to create two measures, executive function and memory. Multiple linear regression models included adjustments for sex, age, education level, baseline CES-D score, latency between tests in months, physical activity score, body mass index, smoking status, total energy, and presence of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension. A second model adjusted for added sugar in grams as well as servings of red meats, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, while a third model included the use of antidepressants along with all other covariates. Cognitive function was analyzed with a principal component analysis; three models used similar covariates with the exception of baseline cognitive scores and baseline CES-D score, used respectively in Model 1 and 3.


Greater executive function scores were associated with fish consumption at 2 years from baseline [( 95% CI), 0.22 (0.10, 0.34)], which was consistent after adjustments for extraneous dietary information and baseline CES-D score. No significant correlation was observed with memory [ 95% CI), 0.00 (-0.17, 0.17)] or CES-D scores [ 95% CI), 0.32 (-1.70, 2.34)], even after adjustments for multiple covariates.


Findings supported a beneficial association of fish consumption with executive function among Puerto Rican adults; no association was found with depressive symptoms or the alternative cognitive measure, memory. These results demonstrate the need for more research in this field, as more specific dietary recommendations may be necessary for the population of interest.