Clinical and environmental correlates of serum BDNF: A descriptive study with plausible implications for AD research

Galit Weinstein, Sarah R. Preis, Alexa S. Beiser, Bernhard Kaess, Tai C. Chen, Claudia Satizabal, Faisal Rahman, Emelia J. Benjamin, Ramachandran S. Vasan, Sudha Seshadri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) may play a central role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD) through neurotrophic effects on basal cholinergic neurons. Reduced serum levels of BDND are observed among AD patients and may predict AD risk. Nevertheless, knowledge about factors associated with its levels in blood is lacking. Objective: To identify clinical and demographic correlates of serum BDNF levels. Methods: BDNF was measured from serum collected between 1992-1996 and 1998-2001 in participants from the Original and Offspring cohorts of the Framingham Study, respectively. A cross-sectional analysis was done to evaluate the relationship between clinical measures and BDNF levels using standard linear regression and stepwise models. Analyses were conducted in the total sample and separately in each cohort, and were adjusted for age and sex. Results: BDNF was measured in 3,689 participants (mean age 65 years, 56% women; 82% Offspring). Cigarette smoking and high total cholesterol were associated with elevated BDNF levels, and history of atrial fibrillation was associated with decreased levels. Elevated BDNF levels were related to greater physical activity and lower Tumor Necrosis Factor-α levels in Offspring. Stepwise models also revealed associations with statin use, alcohol consumption and Apolipoprotein Eε4 genotype. Conclusion: Serum BDNF correlates with various metabolic, inflammatory and life-style measures which in turn have been linked with risk of AD. Future studies of serum BDNF should adjust for these correlates and are needed to further explore the underlying interplay between BDNF and other factors in the pathophysiology of cognitive impairment and AD.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)722-730
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Alzheimer Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2017


  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Brain-derived neurotrophic factor
  • Cohort studies
  • Cross sectional analysis

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


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