Developmental vitamin D deficiency affects spatial learning in wistar rats

Anwar N. Al-Harbi, Khalid M. Khan, Abdur Rahman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Vitamin D deficiency is a global problem. Recent evidence suggests that vitamin D is involved in brain development and function. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with poor cognitive function in adults, but the effect of developmental vitamin D deficiency (DVDD) on cognitive function and brain development in children has not been well established. Objective: We explored the effects of DVDD on cognitive functions and brain morphology of rat pups. Methods: Wistar rat pups born to control and vitamin D-deficient dams were divided into 4 groups: control (C), deficient during gestation (dG), deficient during lactation (dL), and deficient during gestation and lactation (dGL). Spatial learning and memory were assessed by the Morris water maze test at postnatal day (PND) 24 and PND 45. Cortical thickness at the level of the hippocampus was measured at PND 63, and synapses were counted in specified areas of the hippocampus at PND 32 and PND 63. Results: Repeated-measures ANOVA revealed that at PND 24, learning (escape latency) was impaired (by 42%) in the dGL group, whereas at PND 45, both the dL and the dGL groups showed learning impairment (by 47% and 45%, respectively) compared with their respective C groups (P < 0.05). Short-term or long-term memory was largely unaffected by DVDD either at PND 24 or PND 45. Compared with the C group, all the DVDD groups had fewer synapses in the molecular layer of the hippocampus (P < 0.001). The synapse number decreased by 54% in the dGL group at PND 33 and by 70% in the dL and dGL groups at PND 63. All the DVDD groups at PND 63 showed a reduced cortical thickness (by 22%) compared with the C group (P < 0.05). Conclusion: These results suggest that a combined prenatal and postnatal DVDD for ≥6 wk in rat pups affects learning but not memory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1795-1805
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Cortical thickness
  • Developmental vitamin D deficiency
  • Learning and memory
  • Morris water maze
  • Synapses
  • Wistar rats


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