Increase of BDNF serum concentration in lithium treated patients with early Alzheimer's disease

J Alzheimers Dis. 2009;16(3):649-56. doi: 10.3233/JAD-2009-1004.


Preclinical and clinical studies gave evidence that lithium could be useful in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease (AD). In experimental investigations, lithium induces brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Recent studies have found a decrease of BDNF in the serum and brains of AD patients with potentially consecutive lack of neurotrophic support. We assessed the influence of a lithium treatment on BDNF serum concentration in a subset of a greater sample recruited for a randomized, single-blinded, placebo-controlled, parallel-group multicenter 10-week study, investigating the efficacy of lithium treatment in AD patients. In AD patients treated with lithium, a significant increase of BDNF serum levels, and additionally a significant decrease of ADAS-Cog sum scores in comparison to placebo-treated patients, were found. Diminution of cognitive impairment was inversely correlated with lithium serum concentration. Upregulation of BDNF might be part of a neuroprotective effect of lithium in AD patients. The results of the present investigation encourage performing studies with longer treatment phases to observe potential positive long-term effects of lithium in AD patients.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / blood*
  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy*
  • Antipsychotic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / blood*
  • Cognition Disorders / blood
  • Cognition Disorders / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lithium Compounds / administration & dosage*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuroprotective Agents / blood
  • Placebos
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Lithium Compounds
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Placebos