Katie Cooke

Investigating the Role of Acute High Levels of Vitamin D on Autism Spectrum Disorder-Associated Behaviors in Rats

Vitamin D is an essential micronutrient that helps facilitate and maintain healthy brain function through means such as regulating dopaminergic neuron differentiation and influencing the synthesis and metabolism of dopamine. Disrupted signaling in the dopaminergic system can lead to the presence of behaviors associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by deficits in social communication and the presence of restricted interests and repetitive behaviors. Our project aims to investigate the role of acute high levels of vitamin D on ASD-associated behaviors in rats. Rats received a treatment of 2 mg/kg of vitamin D or a control treatment of corn oil by oral gavage for three days prior to testing. Before testing, half of the rats from each vitamin D treatment group were injected with 10 mg/kg of a dopamine reuptake inhibitor (GBR 12909) and the remaining rats were injected with saline as a control. The rats then participated in a social preference task, a marble burying task, open field activity, and a nest-building task to assess the presence and severity of ASD- and ADHD-associated behaviors, respectively. The current study focused on ASD-associated behaviors, and results showed no significant differences between the treatment groups in the social preference and marble burying tasks. However, when separated by sex, male and female rats reacted differently to vitamin D as well as GBR 12909. Future research aims to add power to this study to further investigate the relationship between vitamin D and ASD-associated behaviors.

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