Does maternal vitamin D deficiency contribute to longer-term cognitive impairment in children?

Lead researcher

Dr Padma Murthi

Main finding

Maternal vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy has been linked to impaired neurocognitive development in childhood. The mechanism by which vitamin D affects childhood neurocognition is unclear but may be via interactions with serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in fetal brain development. In this study we aimed to explore associations between maternal and fetal vitamin D concentrations, and fetal serotonin concentrations at term.


The Ritchie Centre

Research group

Placental Endocrinology Group - Department of Medicine


Miranda Davies-Tuck, Martha Lappas, Harmeet Singh, Joanne Mockler, Rahana Rahman, Rebecca Lim, Bryan Leaw, James Doery, Euan M Wallace, Peter R Ebeling

Journal and article title

Most surprising

These observations provide the first evidence of an inverse relationship between maternal 25(OH)D and fetal serotonin concentrations. We propose that maternal vitamin D deficiency increases fetal serotonin concentrations and thereby contributes to longer-term neurocognitive impairment in infants and children.

Future implications

Optimum maternal vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy may reduce neurocognitive deficits in infants and children.

Disease/health impact