Effects of Deficiencies of Folic Acid and Vitamin B12 on Central Nervous System Function and Development

  • Victor Herbert
  • Glenn Tisman


From studies in lower animals, it is believed that deficiency of folic acid during the intrauterine period may lead to an infant’s being born mentally retarded.(1) The use of antimetabolites to folic acid is known to produce abortion in woman and also to produce a fetus with central nervous system and other deformities.(2,3) Work by Arakawa’s group(4) in Japan suggests that congenital enzyme defects in folate metabolism result in infants born with mental retardation, dilation of the cerebral ventricles, and intracerebral calcification. There is as yet no clear evidence that folate deficiency in adults produces histologically demonstrable damage to the central nervous system. However, folate deficiency in adults is associated with irritability and forgetfulness.(5) Furthermore, it has been suggested, most recently by Reynolds,(6) that anticonvulsants act in part by interfering with folate metabolism and that the supplying of folic acid increases fit frequency in patients whose convulsions would otherwise have been better controlled by anticonvulsant medication. This chapter will review what is known about the mechanisms whereby deficiency of folic acid may produce these alleged effects.


Folate Deficiency Serum Folate Central Nervous System Function Methylmalonic Aciduria Methyl Malonic Acidemia 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1973

Authors and Affiliations

  • Victor Herbert
    • 1
  • Glenn Tisman
    • 1
  1. 1.Veterans Administration HospitalColumbia University College of Physicians and SurgeonsBronxUSA

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