Gender differences in ultradian serum levels of NGF and BDNF correlate with psychophysical traits in healthy humans

Riv Psichiatr. 2021 Nov-Dec;56(6):314-320. doi: 10.1708/3713.37045.


We aimed at investigating the gender and/or ultradian pattern of serum levels of the Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) and Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). Blood samples were collected at the 8.00, 13.00 and 20.00 hours of the day in healthy men and women, and the neurotrophins concentration was measured in the serum by ELISA. A further aim of the study was to evaluate whether or not the NGF/BDNF variations might be related to specific physiological or psychological traits as mood, feeling good and feeling rested, sexual desire and energy. Heart rate and blood pressure were also monitored at the same hours in each enrolled subject. The anxiety (STAI-T and STAI-S score) and sleeping quality were once evaluated in the morning too. We found that serum BDNF increases in men and decreases in women from morning to evening, while NGF shows a similar ultradian profile between men and women, but with higher concentrations in women. Both neurotrophins also show gender-related associations with psychophysiological variables. High NGF levels correlated with a high score for all the psychological variables in men, but with a low score in women. An inverse correlation was found between BDNF and energy and sexual desire in women, while no correlations were found in men. These data disclose that the condition of well-being (or activity/arousal status) is featured by an increasing NGF profile in men and a negative BDNF/NGF trend in women. The clinical relevance of the present data is discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Affect
  • Anxiety
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor* / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Libido
  • Male
  • Nerve Growth Factor* / blood
  • Rest
  • Sex Factors*
  • Ultradian Rhythm*


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Nerve Growth Factor