Predicting relapse in schizophrenia: Is BDNF a plausible biological marker?

Schizophr Res. 2018 Mar;193:263-268. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2017.06.059. Epub 2017 Jul 19.


Understanding the biological processes that underlie why patients relapse is an issue of fundamental importance to the detection and prevention of relapse in schizophrenia. Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), a facilitator of brain plasticity, is reduced in patients with schizophrenia. In the present study, we examined whether decreases in plasma BDNF levels could be used as a biological predictor of relapse in schizophrenia. A total of 221 patients were prospectively evaluated for relapse over 30months in the Preventing Relapse in Schizophrenia: Oral Antipsychotics Compared to Injectables: eValuating Efficacy (PROACTIVE) study. Serial blood samples were collected at a maximum of 23 time points during the 30-month trial and BDNF levels were measured in plasma samples by ELISA. Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) curve analysis indicated that BDNF was not a significant predictor of relapse, hospitalization or exacerbation. Regardless of treatment group (oral second generation antipsychotic vs. long-acting injectable risperidone microspheres), baseline BDNF value did not differ significantly between those who experienced any of the adverse outcomes and those who did not. While contrary to the study hypothesis, these robust results offer little support for the use of plasma BDNF alone as a biomarker to predict relapse in schizophrenia.

Keywords: BDNF; Clinical trial; Relapse; Schizophrenia.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism*
  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychotic Disorders / blood*
  • Psychotic Disorders / drug therapy
  • ROC Curve
  • Recurrence
  • Schizophrenia / blood*
  • Schizophrenia / diagnosis*
  • Schizophrenia / drug therapy
  • United States


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor