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  • Meeting abstract
  • Open Access

Plasma Brain-Derived-Neurotrophic Factor levels and cognitive function in euthymic bipolar type I patients

  • 1, 5,
  • 1, 2,
  • 3,
  • 4,
  • 5 and
  • 1
Annals of General Psychiatry20109 (Suppl 1) :S218

  • Published:


  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Valproate
  • Verbal Fluency
  • Mood Stabilization
  • Significant Positive Association


Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is an important contributor to the pathophysiology of bipolar disorder (BD), and abnormalities in the BDNF-signaling system may be implicated in the cognitive decline observed in BD patients. We aimed to investigate serum BDNF levels in BD patients, and its relation with neurocognitive function.

Materials and methods

We measured serum BDNF levels using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay method in 65 euthymic type I BD patients and 50 healthy controls, and administered a neuropsychological test battery to assess attention and mental control, perceptual-motor skills, executive functions, verbal fluency and abstraction, visuo-spatial attention, and memory.


We found no significant differences regarding serum BDNF levels in BD patients and healthy controls. We found significant positive associations between serum BDNF levels and illness duration, and manic and depressive episodes in female BD patients only. Serum BDNF levels were lower in patients medicated with antipsychotics and/or lithium, whereas patients on valproate and/or antidepressants showed higher serum BDNF levels. Patients performed significantly worse on 11 out of 16 neurocognitive tests as compared to controls. We found a significant positive association between serum BDNF levels and a test of verbal fluency in both BD patients and controls.


Present results support the hypothesis that BDNF normalizes with mood stabilization and pharmacological treatment. Our findings in young and physically healthy patients, with short illness duration and few mood episodes may explain the lack of association between serum BDNF levels and neurocognitive performance, even though cognitive performance in patients was overall significantly worse as compared to healthy controls.

Authors’ Affiliations

Bipolar Disorders Research Program, Hospital Santa Maria, Faculty of Medicine, University of Lisbon, (FMUL), Portugal
Centro Hospitalar Psiquiátrico de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada
Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
Bipolar Disorders Program and Laboratory of Molecular Psychiatry, Hospital de Clinicas de Porto Alegre, Brazil and INCT Translational Medicine, Brazil


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© Dias et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2009

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd.