Background/aims: The brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels in serum and the central nervous system are altered in patients with schizophrenia, suggesting that changes in the expression of BDNF might contribute to the disease pathophysiology. Long duration of untreated psychosis (DUP) has been associated with poorer prognosis in patients with schizophrenia. Such a relationship of untreated psychosis to outcome may indicate a neurodegenerative process and may have important implications for understanding the pathophysiology of schizophrenia.
Methods: In this study, we investigated the association between serum BDNF levels and DUP in a sample of drug-naïve patients in their first episode of schizophrenia (FEP). We investigated serum BDNF levels in a sample of 37 drug-naïve FEP patients and 21 matched healthy subjects.
Results: The serum BDNF level in the sample of FEP was significantly reduced compared to the healthy subjects (18.87 +/- 8.23 vs. 29.2 +/- 7.73 ng/ml, t = 4.76, d.f. = 57, p = 0.01). A negative correlation was found between serum BDNF levels and DUP in the group of patients (r = -0.346, p = 0.036).
Conclusions: Our findings indicate that low serum BDNF levels at the onset of schizophrenia were associated with a long DUP and this could reflect an acute neurodegenerative reaction during the untreated phase of psychosis.
Copyright 2010 S. Karger AG, Basel.