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Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2008 Jul 1;32(5):1185-90. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2008.02.009. Epub 2008 Feb 29.

Efficacy of electroconvulsive therapy is associated with changing blood levels of homovanillic acid and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in refractory depressed patients: a pilot study.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Occupational and Environmental Health, Iseigaoka, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka 8078555, Japan.


Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is effective for patients with antidepressant medication-resistant depression. However, the mechanisms of ECT's effectiveness for treating depression are not fully understood. We therefore investigated ECT's effects on blood levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), catecholamine metabolites, and nitric oxide (NO) in 18 treatment-refractory depressed patients. Serum BDNF levels increased significantly following ECT in responders to ECT (before ECT: 8.0+/-9.7 ng/mL; five weeks after start of ECT: 15.1+/-11.1 ng/mL), whereas BDNF levels in non-responders were unchanged (before ECT: 11.5+/-11.0 ng/mL; five weeks after start of ECT: 9.4+/-7.5 ng/mL). Furthermore, the plasma HVA levels, but not MHPG levels, were significantly reduced after ECT (before ECT: 8.5+/-1.9 ng/mL; five weeks after start of ECT: 5.8+/-2.2 ng/mL). This latter finding occurred in parallel with the improvement of depressive symptoms in all patients. These results suggest that the mechanisms underlying ECT's effect on refractory depression may be related to dopaminergic neurons and BDNF.

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