Peripheral levels of BDNF and NGF in primary headaches

Cephalalgia. 2006 Feb;26(2):136-42. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2982.2005.01006.x.


Neurotrophins, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and nerve growth factor (NGF), have been implicated in the generation and modulation of pain. To investigate whether alterations in neurotrophin levels can be detected in subjects suffering from nociceptive disorders, such as primary headaches, we determined the peripheral (platelet and plasma) levels of BDNF and NGF in patients suffering from migraine, with or without aura, or cluster headache (CH), in the interictal phase, and in healthy volunteers. All primary headaches patients studied showed significantly decreased platelet levels of BDNF (migraine vs. controls P<0.001; CH vs. controls P<0.01), while a selective reduction of platelet NGF was observed in migraine sufferers and not in CH patients compared with control subjects (migraine vs. controls P<0.001). These changes were not accompanied by significant modifications of neurotrophin plasma levels. Our findings show for the first time that changes in peripheral levels of neurotrophines (BDNF and NGF) occur in patients suffering from different types of primary headaches, suggesting a potential involvement of BDNF and NGF in the pathophysiology of these disorders, and raising the possibility that differences in peripheral neurotrophins may help to distinguish migraine biologically from CH.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / blood*
  • Cluster Headache / blood*
  • Cluster Headache / complications
  • Cluster Headache / diagnosis
  • Female
  • Headache Disorders, Primary / blood*
  • Headache Disorders, Primary / diagnosis
  • Headache Disorders, Primary / etiology
  • Humans
  • Hydroxyindoleacetic Acid / blood*
  • Male
  • Migraine Disorders / blood*
  • Migraine Disorders / complications
  • Migraine Disorders / diagnosis
  • Nerve Growth Factor / blood*
  • Serotonin / blood*


  • Biomarkers
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Serotonin
  • Hydroxyindoleacetic Acid
  • Nerve Growth Factor