Effect of electroconvulsive therapy on brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels in patients with major depressive disorder

Brain Behav. 2018 Nov;8(11):e01101. doi: 10.1002/brb3.1101. Epub 2018 Oct 1.


Objectives: Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) has been associated with depression and its treatment response. The aim of the present study was to explore the effect of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) on serum and plasma BDNF levels and change of Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) and their associations in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD).

Methods: The study included thirty patients suffering from MDD. Their serum and plasma BDNF levels were examined before ECT (baseline) and after the first, fifth, and last ECT session. The severity of the depression and the response to ECT were measured with MADRS.

Results: Electroconvulsive therapy caused no significant changes in serum BDNF levels. Plasma BDNF levels decreased during the fifth ECT session between the baseline and the 2-hr samples (p = 0.019). No associations were found between serum or plasma BDNF levels and remission. The correlations between plasma and serum BDNF levels in each measurement varied between 0.187 and 0.636.

Conclusions: Neither serum nor plasma BDNF levels were systematically associated with the clinical remission. However, the plasma BDNF levels somewhat varied during the ECT series. Therefore, the predictive value of BDNF for effects of ECT appears to be at least modest.

Keywords: brain-derived neurotrophic factor; electroconvulsive therapy; major depressive disorder; neurotrophin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / blood
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy*
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor