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A functional polymorphism of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor gene (BDNF) Val66Met has been associated with cognitive function and symptom severity in patients with schizophrenia. It has been suggested that the Val66Met polymorphism has a role as a modulator in a range of clinical features of the illness, including symptoms severity, therapeutic responsiveness, age of onset, brain morphology and cognitive function. However, little work has been done in first-episode schizophrenia (FES) spectrum disorders. The objective of this study is to investigate the association of the BDNF Val66Met polymorphism on cognitive function and clinical symptomatology in FES patients.
Using a cross-sectional design in a cohort of 204 patients with FES or a schizophrenia spectrum disorder and 204 healthy matched controls, we performed BDNF Val66Met genotyping and tested its relationship with cognitive testing (attention, working memory, learning/verbal memory and reasoning/problem-solving) and assessment of clinical symptom severity.
There was no significant influence of the BDNF allele frequency on cognitive factor scores in either patients or controls. An augmented severity of negative symptoms was found in FES patients that carried the Met allele.
The results of this study suggest that in patients with a first-episode of schizophrenia or a schizophrenia spectrum disorder, the BDNF Val66Met polymorphism does not exert an influence on cognitive functioning, but is associated with negative symptoms severity. BDNF may serve as suitable marker of negative symptomatology severity in FES patients within the schizophrenia spectrum.
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