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Vitamin D improved brains in aging rats – Sept 2014

Vitamin D prevents cognitive decline and enhances hippocampal synaptic function in aging rats

Caitlin S. Latimera,1, Lawrence D. Brewera, James L. Searcya,2, Kuey-Chu Chena, Jelena Popovića, Susan D. Kranerb, Olivier Thibaulta, Eric M. Blalocka, Philip W. Landfielda, and Nada M. Portera, nadap at uky.edu
1Present address: Department of Anatomic Pathology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195.
2Present address: Centre for Neuroregeneration, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH16 4SB, United Kingdom.

Edited* by Hector F. DeLuca, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, WI, and approved August 26, 2014 (received for review March 10, 2014)

VitaminDWiki Summary

10,000 IU of vitamin D / kilogram of feed ==> 30 ng in blood (similar level to humans)

Aging rats with 30 ng of Vitamin D performed the reversal task much more quickly

Aging rats with 30 ng of Vitamin D had stronger nerve responses

See also VitaminDWiki

Vitamin D Council has a good description of this experiment - behind a paywall

 Download the PDF from VitaminDWiki.


Higher blood levels of vitamin D are associated with better health outcomes. Vitamin D deficiency, however, is common among the elderly. Despite targets in the brain, little is known about how vitamin D affects cognitive function. In aging rodents, we modeled human serum vitamin D levels ranging from deficient to sufficient and tested whether increasing dietary vitamin D could maintain or improve cognitive function. Treatment was initiated at middle age, when markers of aging emerge, and maintained for ∼6 mo. Compared with low- or normal-dietary vitamin D groups, only aging rats on higher vitamin D could perform a complex memory task and had blood levels considered in the optimal range. These results suggest that vitamin D may improve the likelihood of healthy cognitive aging.


Vitamin D is an important calcium-regulating hormone with diverse functions in numerous tissues, including the brain. Increasing evidence suggests that vitamin D may play a role in maintaining cognitive function and that vitamin D deficiency may accelerate age-related cognitive decline. Using aging rodents, we attempted to model the range of human serum vitamin D levels, from deficient to sufficient, to test whether vitamin D could preserve or improve cognitive function with aging. For 5–6 mo, middle-aged F344 rats were fed diets containing low, medium (typical amount), or high (100, 1,000, or 10,000 international units/kg diet, respectively) vitamin D3, and hippocampal-dependent learning and memory were then tested in the Morris water maze. Rats on high vitamin D achieved the highest blood levels (in the sufficient range) and significantly outperformed low and medium groups on maze reversal, a particularly challenging task that detects more subtle changes in memory. In addition to calcium-related processes, hippocampal gene expression microarrays identified pathways pertaining to synaptic transmission, cell communication, and G protein function as being up-regulated with high vitamin D. Basal synaptic transmission also was enhanced, corroborating observed effects on gene expression and learning and memory. Our studies demonstrate a causal relationship between vitamin D status and cognitive function, and they suggest that vitamin D-mediated changes in hippocampal gene expression may improve the likelihood of successful brain aging.

Attached files

ID Name Comment Uploaded Size Downloads
4451 Rat dose response.jpg admin 03 Oct, 2014 12:29 17.96 Kb 1131
4450 Nerve response.jpg admin 03 Oct, 2014 12:18 56.60 Kb 1045
4449 Rat reversing.jpg admin 03 Oct, 2014 12:17 51.73 Kb 1052
4448 Cognitive decline in rats.pdf PDF 2014 admin 03 Oct, 2014 12:17 1.49 Mb 1270