Neurotrophic factors and CNS disorders: findings in rodent models of depression and schizophrenia

Prog Brain Res. 2004;146:151-65. doi: 10.1016/s0079-6123(03)46011-1.


Nerve growth factor (NGF) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) are proteins involved in neuronal survival and plasticity of dopaminergic, cholinergic and serotonergic neurons in the central nervous system (CNS). Loss of neurons in specific brain regions has been found in depression and schizophrenia, and this chapter summarizes the findings of altered neurotrophins in animal models of those two disorders under baseline condition and following antidepressive and antipsychotic treatments. In a model of depression (Flinders sensitive line/Flinders resistant line; FSL/FRL rats), increased NGF and BDNF concentrations were found in frontal cortex of female, and in occipital cortex of male 'depressed' FSL compared to FRL control rats. Using the same model, the effects of electroconvulsive stimuli (ECS) and chronic lithium treatment on brain NGF, BDNF and glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factors were investigated. ECS and lithium altered the brain concentrations of neurotrophic factors in the hippocampus, frontal cortex, occipital cortex and striatum. ECS mimic the effects of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) that is an effective treatment for depression and also schizophrenia. Since NGF and BDNF may also be changed in the CNS of animal models of schizophrenia, we investigated whether treatment with antipsychotic drugs (haloperidol, risperidone, and olanzapine) affects the constitutive levels of NGF and BDNF in the CNS. Both typical and atypical antipsychotic drugs altered the regional brain levels of NGF and BDNF. Other studies also demonstrated that these drugs differentially altered neurotrophin mRNAs. Overall, these studies indicate that alteration of brain level of NGF and BDNF could constitute part of the biochemical alterations induced by antipsychotic drugs.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antipsychotic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / radiation effects
  • Brain Chemistry
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / analysis
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / radiation effects
  • Depression / genetics
  • Depression / metabolism*
  • Depression / therapy
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Electroshock
  • Humans
  • Lithium / pharmacology
  • Nerve Growth Factor / analysis
  • Nerve Growth Factor / radiation effects
  • Nerve Growth Factors / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rodentia
  • Schizophrenia / genetics
  • Schizophrenia / metabolism*
  • Schizophrenia / therapy


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • Nerve Growth Factor
  • Lithium