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PLOS ONE  2014 

The Associations between Serum Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, Potential Confounders, and Cognitive Decline: A Longitudinal Study

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0091339

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Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) plays a role in the maintenance and function of neurons. Although persons with Alzheimer’s disease have lower cortical levels of BDNF, evidence regarding the association between circulating BDNF and cognitive function is conflicting. We sought to determine the correlates of BDNF level and whether BDNF level was prospectively associated with cognitive decline in healthy older adults. We measured serum BDNF near baseline in 912 individuals. Cognitive status was assessed repeatedly with the modified Mini-Mental Status Examination and the Digit Symbol Substitution test over the next 10 years. We evaluated the association between BDNF and cognitive decline with longitudinal models. We also assessed the association between BDNF level and demographics, comorbidities and health behaviors. We found an association between serum BDNF and several characteristics that are also associated with dementia (race and depression), suggesting that future studies should control for these potential confounders. We did not find evidence of a longitudinal association between serum BDNF and subsequent cognitive test trajectories in older adults, although we did identify a potential trend toward a cross-sectional association. Our results suggest that serum BDNF may have limited utility as a biomarker of prospective cognitive decline.


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