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J Psychiatr Res. 2011 Oct;45(10):1301-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2011.05.002.

Effects of serum Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor on exercise augmentation treatment of depression.

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Department of Psychiatry, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX 75235, USA.



Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) has potential as a biomarker of depression treatment because serum BDNF in depressed human subjects is decreased and normalizes with treatment. The relationship between serum BDNF and exercise treatment of depression is not known. The Treatment with Exercise Augmentation for Depression (TREAD) study examined dosed exercise augmentation treatment of partial responders to antidepressants. Serum BDNF in TREAD subjects was analyzed to understand its relationship with exercise training.


Subjects were randomized to high (16 kcal/kg/week or KKW) or low (4 KKW) energy expenditure exercise over 12 weeks. Actual kcal/week expended and IDS-C scores were collected weekly. One hundred four subjects in TREAD provided baseline blood samples; a subset of 70 subjects also provided week 12 samples. Serum BDNF was determined using ELISA. Correlations were examined between change in BDNF and 1) mean kcal/week expended, and 2) change in IDS-C score. Mixed-effects ANOVA examined the effect of baseline BDNF on outcome.


Resting serum BDNF was stable and did not correlate with energy expenditure (p = 0.15) or IDS-C improvement (p = 0.89). Subjects entering the study with higher BDNF improved more rapidly on the IDS-C (p = 0.003).


Serum may not be the most sensitive blood fraction in which to measure BDNF change. Pre-treatment with medication may mask exercise effect on BDNF.


These results suggest that change in serum BDNF does not reflect efficacy of exercise augmentation treatment of MDD. Instead BDNF may function as an augmentation moderator. Pre-treatments that raise BDNF may improve the efficacy of exercise treatment of MDD.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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