Iron and the brain: neurotransmitter receptors and magnetic resonance spectroscopy

Br J Nutr. 2001 May:85 Suppl 2:S147-50.


Earlier studies show that in iron deficiency with anaemia and in latent iron deficiency neurotransmitters are altered. The changes induced in the fetal brain are irreversible on rehabilitation. The important alterations in glutamate metabolism in latent iron deficiency stimulated studies on gamma aminobutyric acid and glutaminate receptors. It was observed that binding of 3H-muscimol at pH 7.5 and 1 mg protein/assay increased significantly in synaptic vesicular membranes and under similar conditions 3H-glutamate binding showed reduction. Thus iron deficiency played a role in both excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitter receptors. To elucidate the role of body iron status on the brain, anaemic children with thalassemia and iron deficiency were subjected to 'magnetic resonance spectroscopy' of globus pallidus, caudate and dentate nuclei and there was no change in iron content. The concentrations of creatinine and aspartate increased, with lowering of choline content. The findings were similar in thalassemia as well as iron deficiency anaemia, suggesting that in anaemia changes operate through reduced oxygen availability.

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Aspartic Acid / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Choline / metabolism
  • Creatinine / metabolism
  • Female
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Iron Deficiencies*
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Micronutrients*
  • Models, Animal
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, GABA / metabolism
  • Receptors, Glutamate / metabolism
  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter / metabolism*
  • Thalassemia / metabolism


  • Micronutrients
  • Receptors, GABA
  • Receptors, Glutamate
  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter
  • Aspartic Acid
  • Creatinine
  • Iron
  • Choline