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Transl Psychiatry. 2011 Oct 25;1:e51. doi: 10.1038/tp.2011.47.

BDNF polymorphism predicts the rate of decline in skilled task performance and hippocampal volume in healthy individuals.

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VA Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, CA 94304, USA.


Numerous studies have indicated a link between the presence of polymorphism in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and cognitive and affective disorders. However, only a few have studied these effects longitudinally along with structural changes in the brain. This study was carried out to investigate whether valine-to-methionine substitution at position 66 (val66met) of pro-BDNF could be linked to alterations in the rate of decline in skilled task performance and structural changes in hippocampal volume. Participants consisted of 144 healthy Caucasian pilots (aged 40-69 years) who completed a minimum of 3 consecutive annual visits. Standardized flight simulator score (SFSS) was measured as a reliable and quantifiable indicator for skilled task performance. In addition, a subset of these individuals was assessed for hippocampal volume alterations using magnetic resonance imaging. We found that val66met substitution in BDNF correlated longitudinally with the rate of decline in SFSS. Structurally, age-dependent hippocampal volume changes were also significantly altered by this substitution. Our study suggests that val66met polymorphism in BDNF can be linked to the rate of decline in skilled task performance. Furthermore, this polymorphism could be used as a predictor of the effects of age on the structure of the hippocampus in healthy individuals. Such results have implications for understanding possible disabilities in older adults performing skilled tasks who are at a higher risk for cognitive and affective disorders.Translational Psychiatry (2011) 1, e51; doi:10.1038/tp.2011.47; published online 25 October 2011.

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