How BDNF affects working memory in acute sleep deprivation: The mediating role of spontaneous brain activity

Sleep Med. 2024 Jun:118:1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2024.03.027. Epub 2024 Mar 17.


The brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) mediates the plasticity associated with memory processing, and compensatorily increases after acute sleep deprivation (SD). However, whether the altered spontaneous brain activity mediates the association between BDNF and working memory in SD remains unknown. Here, we aimed to probe the mediating role of the spontaneous brain activity between plasma BDNF and WM function in SD. A total of 30 healthy subjects with regular sleep were enrolled in this study. Resting-sate functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans and the peripheral blood were collected before and after 24 h SD. All participants also received n-back task assessing working memory (WM) performance. The amplitude of low-frequency fluctuation (ALFF) and fractional ALFF (fALFF) were calculated to reflect the intensity of regional spontaneous brain activity. Plasma BDNF was measured by sandwich ELISA. Our results revealed a significant decline in WM and increase in plasma BDNF level after SD, and negative association between the changed WM performance and plasma BDNF level. Specially, the ALFF of the left inferior parietal cortex and right inferior frontal cortex, and fALFF of the left anterior cingulate and medial prefrontal cortex and left posterior opercular cortex regulated the association between the BDNF and one-back reaction time respectively. Our results suggest that the association between BDNF and working memory may be mediated through regional spontaneous brain activity involving in the cerebral cortex, which may provide new sight into the interaction between neurotrophic factors and cognition, and potential targets for noninvasive brain stimulation on WM decline after acute SD.

Keywords: Amplitude of low-frequency fluctuation; Brain-derived neurotrophic factor; Functional MRI; Sleep deprivation; Working memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor* / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term* / physiology
  • Sleep Deprivation* / blood
  • Sleep Deprivation* / physiopathology
  • Young Adult


  • BDNF protein, human