Vitamin D and Brain Imaging in the Elderly: Should we Expect Some Lesions Specifically Related to Hypovitaminosis D?

Cédric Annweiler*, 1, 2, Manuel Montero-Odasso 2, Susan W Muir 2, Olivier Beauchet 1
1 Department of Neuroscience, Division of Geriatric Medicine, Angers University Hospital; Angers University Memory Center; UPRES EA 2646, University of Angers, UNAM, Angers, France
2 Department of Medicine, Division of Geriatric Medicine, St. Joseph’s Health Care London, Parkwood Hospital and the University of Western Ontario; Gait and Brain Lab, Lawson Health Research Institute, London, ON, Canada

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* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Neuroscience, Division of Geriatric Medicine, Angers University Hospital, 49933 Angers Cedex 9, France; Tel: ++33 2 41 35 54 86; Fax: ++33 2 41 35 48 94; E-mail:


Hypovitaminosis D is associated with cognitive decline in the elderly, but the issue of causality remains unresolved. Definitive evidence would include the visualization of brain lesions resulting from hypovitaminosis D. The aim of the present article is to determine, through a literature review, the location and nature of possible brain disorders in hypovitaminosis D. We found limited brain-imaging data, which reported ischemic infarcts and white matter hyperintensities in hypovitaminosis D, though did not provide their specific location or report any focal atrophy. Based on the finding of executive dysfunctions (i.e., mental shifting and information updating impairments) in the presence of hypovitaminosis D, we suggest that hypovitaminosis D is associated with a dysfunction of the frontal-subcortical neuronal circuits, particularly the dorsolateral circuit. Further imaging studies are required to corroborate this assumption and to determine whether hypovitaminosis D results in degenerative and / or vascular lesions.

Keywords: Vitamin D, brain mapping, cognition, older adults.