Objective: Schizophrenia is associated with a significantly high prevalence of smoking. Upregulation of neurotrophins by nicotine is well established. Accumulating evidence shows that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) may be involved in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. The purposes of this study were to compare BDNF levels in smokers to nonsmokers with schizophrenia and examine the association between BDNF levels and psychopathological symptoms.
Materials and methods: Serum BDNF levels were measured in 139 male inpatients with DSM-IV schizophrenia: 102 smokers and 37 nonsmokers. Symptoms were assessed with the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS).
Results: The positive PANSS symptoms were lower in smokers than in nonsmokers, while the negative symptoms were lower in those who smoked more cigarettes. BDNF levels were significantly higher in smokers than in nonsmokers (p < 0.05). Higher BDNF levels correlated with fewer negative symptoms and with smoking more cigarettes.
Conclusion: The fewer positive symptoms in smokers and fewer negative symptoms in those who smoked more cigarettes may be associated with nicotine-induced upregulation of BDNF.