A new study now suggests that vitamin D may also affect the mind. In particular, vitamin D deficiency may have adverse cognitive effects, such as poor memory and even schizophrenia.
Researchers at the University of Queensland Brain Institute spent 20 weeks observing adult mice that were deprived of vitamin D, and a control group. They found that mice with vitamin D deficiency performed poorly in cognitive tests. The vitamin-deficient mice had difficulty learning new things and exhibited poor short-term memory. (Related: How vitamin D supports brain health and works to reduce depression risk.)
Brain scans showed that the rodents had a reduction in perineuronal nets in the hippocampus. “These nets form a strong, supportive mesh around certain neurons, and in doing so, they stabilize the contacts these cells make with other neurons,” said head researcher Thomas Burme. “As neurons in the hippocampus lose their supportive perineuronal nets, they have trouble maintaining connections, and this ultimately leads to a loss of cognitive function.”
Burme added, “There was also a stark reduction in both the number and strength of connections between neurons in [the hippocampus].”
The hippocampus is a small area in the brain associated mainly with memory formation. It is also linked to spatial navigation, spatial memory, and behavioral inhibition.
“Unfortunately, exactly how vitamin D influences brain structure and function is not well-understood, so it has remained unclear why deficiency causes problems,” said Burne. The authors believed that vitamin D deficiency affects perineuronal nets by making them more vulnerable to the degrading action of enzymes.
Burne and his team also suggested that the impaired function of the hippocampus due to vitamin D deficiency may be responsible for some symptoms observed among patients with schizophrenia, including memory loss and cognitive distortions. Further study could have therapeutic implications for these schizophrenic symptoms.
“The next step is to test this new hypothesis on the link between vitamin D deficiency, perineuronal nets, and cognition,” said Burne.
Vitamin D is one of the essential nutrients needed by the body to function properly. It’s important to avoid vitamin D deficiency for these reasons:
Detailed below are the recommended daily intake of vitamin D according to the U.S. Institutes of Medicine (IOM):
To know more about vitamin D and its effect on brain health, visit VitaminD.news.