Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) is a key molecule involved in plastic changes related to learning and memory. The expression of BDNF is highly regulated, and can lead to great variability in BDNF levels in healthy subjects. Changes in BDNF expression are associated with both normal and pathological aging and also psychiatric disease, in particular in structures important for memory processes such as the hippocampus and parahippocampal areas. Some interventions like exercise or antidepressant administration enhance the expression of BDNF in normal and pathological conditions. In this review, we will describe studies from rodents and humans to bring together research on how BDNF expression is regulated, how this expression changes in the pathological brain and also exciting work on how interventions known to enhance this neurotrophin could have clinical relevance. We propose that, although BDNF may not be a valid biomarker for neurodegenerative/neuropsychiatric diseases because of its disregulation common to many pathological conditions, it could be thought of as a marker that specifically relates to the occurrence and/or progression of the mnemonic symptoms that are common to many pathological conditions.
Keywords: Alzheimer disease; BDNF; depression; hippocampus; memory; perirhinal cortex; stress.