Cognitive impairment and BDNF serum levels

Neurol Neurochir Pol. 2017 Jan-Feb;51(1):24-32. doi: 10.1016/j.pjnns.2016.10.001. Epub 2016 Oct 21.


Background/aims: To investigate the alterations of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BNDF) serum levels in subjects with different intensity of cognitive impairment and different neurodegenerative processes.

Material and methods: Serum BDNF levels were analyzed by ELISA kit in 378 subjects: 134 Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients, 115 amnestic mild cognitive impairment (MCI) patients, and 129 controls divided into two groups: neurodegenerative control group (ND), consisting of 49 Parkinson's disease patients without any cognitive complaints, and cognitively normal control group (CN), consisting of 80 subjects without any neurological disorders.

Results: AD patients had significantly lower (p<0.001) BDNF serum levels compared to MCI, CN and ND controls. Age and education had significant influence on BDNF serum levels regardless the diagnosis or group assignment. We have found no influence of depression on BDNF serum levels either in our group as a whole, or in each group assessed separately. We found significant correlation between BDNF serum levels and cognitive impairments. After multiple comparisons between the groups, we found that, after adjustment for confounding factors (age, gender, education, depression, cognitive impairment), BDNF serum levels were the lowest in AD group (p=0.05).

Conclusions: Advanced age and low educational level are associated with decreased BDNF serum levels. Decreased BDNF serum levels correspond to the severity of cognitive impairment. There is no correlation between BDNF serum levels and depressive symptoms.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Brain-derived neurotrophic factor; Cognitive impairment; Dementia; Serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor level.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / blood*
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / blood*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parkinson Disease / blood*
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • BDNF protein, human