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How Vitamin D Regulates The Role Of Dopamine In Brain Cells

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Existing research shows that maternal vitamin D deficiency can be linked to brain development disorders like schizophrenia. For this study, scientists at the University of Queensland Brain Institute took it a step further, examining the functional changes that take place in the brain when a pregnant person is deficient in vitamin D. 

To do this, the team developed cells that mimic key brain cells and replicated some of the processes that take place during brain development. Then, they allowed this development to take place in an environment with active vitamin D hormone and in an environment without it.

The results showed clearly that the cells exposed to vitamin D developed much differently. With adequate vitamin D, changes occurred in the distribution of presynaptic proteins responsible for dopamine release within the cells, which led to enhanced dopamine release. As the authors of the study said in a press release: “What we found was the altered differentiation process in the presence of vitamin D not only makes the cells grow differently but recruits machinery to release dopamine differently.” 

The researchers went on to examine this phenomenon using a tool called false fluorescent neurotransmitters, which helped them visualize the functional changes that were occurring in those presynaptic proteins. Again, the results showed enhanced dopamine release in the presence of vitamin D. As the authors explained again: “This is conclusive evidence that vitamin D affects the structural differentiation of dopaminergic neurons.”

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