Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) belongs to the neurotrophin family which interacts with high-affinity protein kinase receptors (Trk) and the unselective p75(NGFR) receptor. The BDNF gene has a complex structure with multiple regulatory elements and four promoters that are differentially expressed in central or peripheral tissue. BDNF expression is regulated by neuronal activity or peripheral hormones. Neurotrophins regulate the survival and differentiation of neurons during development but growing evidence indicates that they are also involved in several functions in adulthood, including plasticity processes. BDNF expression in the central nervous system (CNS) is modified by various kinds of brain insult (stress, ischemia, seizure activity, hypoglycemia, etc.) and alterations in its expression may contribute to some pathologies such as depression, epilepsy, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's disease. Apart from very traumatic situations, the brain functioning is resilient to stress and capable of adaptive plasticity. Neurotrophins might act as plasticity mediators enhancing this trait which seems to be crucial in adaptive processes. In addition to documenting all of the topics mentioned above in the CNS, we review the state of the art concerning neurotrophins and their receptors, including our personal contribution which is essentially focused on the stress response.