The role of iron in learning and memory

Stephanie J.B. Fretham, Erik S. Carlson, Michael K. Georgieff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Scopus citations

Abstract

Iron deficiency (ID) is the most common nutrient deficiency, affecting 2 billion people and 30% of pregnant women and their offspring. Early life ID affects at least 3 major neurobehavioral domains, including speed of processing, affect, and learning and memory, the latter being particularly prominent. The learning and memory deficits occur while the infants are iron deficient and persist despite iron repletion. The neural mechanisms underlying the short- and long-term deficits are being elucidated. Early ID alters the transcriptome, metabolome, structure, intracellular signaling pathways, and electrophysiology of the developing hippocampus, the brain region responsible for recognition learning and memory. Until recently, it was unclear whether these effects are directly due to a lack of iron interacting with important transcriptional, translational, or posttranslational processes or to indirect effects such as hypoxia due to anemia or stress. Nonanemic genetic mouse models generated by conditionally altering expression of iron transport proteins specifically in hippocampal neurons in late gestation have led to a greater understanding of iron's role in learning and memory. The learning deficits in adulthood likely result from interactions between direct and indirect effects that contribute to abnormal hippocampal structure and plasticity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)112-121
Number of pages10
JournalAdvances in Nutrition
Volume2
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2011

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