A large, cross-sectional observational study of serum BDNF, cognitive function, and mild cognitive impairment in the elderly

Front Aging Neurosci. 2014 Apr 15:6:69. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2014.00069. eCollection 2014.


Objective: The clinical relationship between brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and cognitive function or mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is not well-understood. The purpose of this study was to identify the relationship between serum BDNF and cognitive function and MCI, and determine whether serum BDNF level might be a useful biomarker for assessing risk for MCI in older people.

Materials and methods: A total of 4463 individuals aged 65 years or older (mean age 72 years) participating in the study. We measured performance in a battery of neuropsychological and cognitive function tests; serum BDNF concentration.

Results: Eight hundred twenty-seven participants (18.8%) had MCI. After adjustment for sex, age, education level, diabetes, and current smoking, serum BDNF was associated with poorer performance in the story memory, and digit symbol substitution task scores. Serum BDNF was marginally associated with the presence of MCI (odds ratio, 95% confidence interval: 1.41, 1.00-1.99) when BDNF was 1.5 SD lower than the mean value standardized for sex and age, education level, diabetes, and current smoking.

Conclusion: Low serum BDNF was associated with lower cognitive test scores and MCI. Future prospective studies should establish the discriminative value of serum BDNF for the risk of MCI.

Keywords: aged; biomarker; brain-derived neurotrophic factor; cognition; dementia.