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PLoS One. 2013 Aug 9;8(8):e71593. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0071593. eCollection 2013.

The impact of adult vitamin D deficiency on behaviour and brain function in male Sprague-Dawley rats.

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Queensland Brain Institute, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland, Australia.



Vitamin D deficiency is common in the adult population, and this has been linked to depression and cognitive outcomes in clinical populations. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of adult vitamin D (AVD) deficiency on behavioural tasks of relevance to neuropsychiatric disorders in male Sprague-Dawley rats.


Ten-week old male Sprague-Dawley rats were fed a control or vitamin D deficient diet for 6 weeks prior to, and during behavioural testing. We first examined a range of behavioural domains including locomotion, exploration, anxiety, social behaviour, learned helplessness, sensorimotor gating, and nociception. We then assessed locomotor response to the psychomimetic drugs, amphetamine and MK-801. Attention and vigilance were assessed using the 5 choice serial reaction time task (5C-SRT) and the 5 choice continuous performance task (5C-CPT) and, in a separate cohort, working memory was assessed using the delay match to sample (DMTS) task. We also examined excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters in prefrontal cortex and striatum.


AVD-deficient rats were deficient in vitamin D3 (<10 nM) and had normal calcium and phosphate levels after 8-10 weeks on the diet. Overall, AVD deficiency was not associated with an altered phenotype across the range of behavioural domains tested. On the 5C-SRT AVD-deficient rats made more premature responses and more head entries during longer inter-trial intervals (ITI) than control rats. On the 5C-CPT AVD-deficient rats took longer to make false alarm (FA) responses than control rats. AVD-deficient rats had increases in baseline GABA levels and the ratio of DOPAC/HVA within the striatum.


AVD-deficient rats exhibited no major impairments in any of the behavioural domains tested. Impairments in premature responses in AVD-deficient rats may indicate that these animals have specific alterations in striatal systems governing compulsive or reward-seeking behaviour.

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