Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is extremely beneficial for the maintenance of bone health. It is also said to improve your cardiovascular system, endocrine function and immune health.
Newer research has, however, focused more on linking this vitamin with brain health. For instance, it has been recently reported that a deficiency of vitamin D could possibly lead to an increased risk of schizophrenia.
Other studies indicated that vitamin D deficiency in middle-aged rodents can cause brain damage. It may also lead to decreased performance in cognitive tests.
Researchers have also indicated that people who easily survive cardiac arrest are at a lesser risk of recovering their brain function if they have a vitamin D deficiency.
A new study has investigated deeper into the link between vitamin D levels and the brain function. The aim was to find the most likely reason why this vitamin might be connected to the brain function.
The decrease in the Brain Scaffoldings
The lead researcher explained the aim of this study saying that more than a billion people on an international level are said to be affected by the deficiency of vitamin D. Moreover, the connection between impaired cognition and vitamin D deficiency is well-established.
However, the mechanism through which vitamin D affects the structure and function of the human brain is not well-known. So the scientists are not quite sure why a deficiency of vitamin D causes brain-related issues.
To check this, the researchers induced a vitamin D deficiency in healthy mice for a period of 20 weeks. This was followed by testing of these mice as compared to the control group.
Different cognitive tests revealed that mice that lacked vitamin D were not able to learn new things and remember them as accurately as mice present in the control group.
The brain scans of these mice revealed that this deficiency had caused a decrease in the perineuronal nets present in the hippocampus- the area of the brain responsible for memory formation.
These perineuronal nets can be called as the scaffolding present in the brain. They form a supportive and strong mesh around a few neurons. This leads to the stabilization of these cells and the strengthening of their connections with other neurons.
The researchers also reported a reduction in the strength and number of connections present between the neurons of the hippocampus.
The study was not able to firmly establish the underlying mechanism. However, it led the researchers to believe that a lack of vitamin D causes perineuronal nets to become more vulnerable to degradation of enzymes and their actions.
As soon as the hippocampal neurons lose these perineuronal nets, they find it difficult to maintain the connections, leading to a loss of cognitive function.
The author is also of the viewpoint that an impairment of the brain function in the hippocampus may cause the symptoms of schizophrenia to appear like cognitive distortion and memory loss.
The next step for the researchers is to test the new hypothesis connecting vitamin D deficiency with perineuronal nets and cognition.