Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Brain Plasticity Loss

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

University of Queensland research may explain why vitamin D is vital for brain health, and how deficiency leads to disorders including depression and schizophrenia.

“Over a billion people worldwide are affected by vitamin D deficiency, and there is a well-established link between vitamin D deficiency and impaired cognition,” said A/Prof Thomas Burne of UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute. “Unfortunately, exactly how vitamin D influences brain structure and function is not well understood, so it has remained unclear why deficiency causes problems.”

Burne’s team found that vitamin D levels affect a type of scaffolding in the brain called perineuronal nets. “These nets form a strong, supportive mesh around certain neurons, and in doing so they stabilise the contacts these cells make with other neurons,” he said.

The researchers removed vitamin D from the diet of a group of healthy adult mice, and after 20 weeks found a significant decline in their ability to remember and learn compared with a control group.

Burne said the vitamin D-deficient group had a pronounced reduction in perineuronal nets in the hippocampus, which is crucial to memory formation. “There was also a stark reduction in both the number and strength of connections between neurons in that region.”

Burne proposes that vitamin D plays an important role in keeping perineuronal nets...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.