Folate and vitamin B12 are required both in the methylation of homocysteine to methionine and in the synthesis of S-adenosylmethionine. S-adenosylmethionine is involved in numerous methylation reactions involving proteins, phospholipids, DNA, and neurotransmitter metabolism. Both folate and vitamin B12 deficiency may cause similar neurologic and psychiatric disturbances including depression, dementia, and a demyelinating myelopathy.
A current theory proposes that a defect in methylation processes is central to the biochemical basis of the neuropsychiatry of these vitamin deficiencies. Folate deficiency may specifically affect central monoamine metabolism and aggravate depressive disorders. In addition, the neurotoxic effects of homocysteine may also play a role in the neurologic and psychiatric disturbances that are associated with folate and vitamin B12 deficiency.