Abstract: The effect of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) on neuronal survival was studied in cultured cells isolated from newborn rat retina. In vivo, the content of DHA in the retina increased nearly fourfold from days 2 to 12 after birth, whereas in retinal cells in culture it remained constant. Unlike amacrine cells, the photoreceptor cells in control cultures underwent a selective degeneration, starting at day 7, that led to their massive death by day 11. The addition of DHA at day 7 led to its active incorporation by the cultures, increasing from 6 to 21% of total fatty acids in cell lipids, and completely prevented photo-receptor cell death. When other fatty acids were tested, both neuronal fatty acid composition and photoreceptor death were the same as in control cultures. These results indicate that DHA is specifically required for the survival of retinal photoreceptors.