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Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which facilitates neuroplasticity and synaptogenesis, may be decreased in bipolar disorder, but has not been systematically investigated in people with newly diagnosed bipolar disorder and unaffected first-degree relatives.
To compare BDNF levels in patients with newly diagnosed bipolar disorder, their unaffected first-degree relatives and healthy controls.
The study investigated plasma BDNF levels in patients (n = 371) with newly diagnosed bipolar disorder, their unaffected first-degree relatives (n = 98) and healthy controls (n = 200) using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. We further investigated associations between BDNF levels and illness-related variables and medication status.
BDNF levels were found to be 22.0% (95% CI 1.107–1.343) higher in patients with bipolar disorder compared with healthy controls (P < 0.001) and 15.6% higher in unaffected first-degree relatives compared with healthy controls (95% CI 1.007–1.327, P = 0.04), when adjusting for age and gender. Further, BDNF levels were positively associated with duration of illness at a trend level (P = 0.05), age (P = 0.001) and use of anti-epileptic medication (P = 0.05).
These findings suggest that BDNF levels are not decreased in the early stages of bipolar disorder and in unaffected first-degree relatives contrasting with prior findings during later stages of the illness.
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