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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2013 Feb;38(3):525-32. doi: 10.1038/npp.2012.214. Epub 2012 Nov 7.

Effects of the BDNF Val66Met polymorphism on white matter microstructure in healthy adults.

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Clinical Brain Disorders Branch, Genes, Cognition and Psychosis Program, National Institute of Mental Health, Intramural Research Program, NIH, DHHS, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


The BDNF Val(66)Met polymorphism, a possible risk variant for mental disorders, is a potent modulator of neural plasticity in humans and has been linked to deficits in gray matter structure, function, and cognition. The impact of the variant on brain white matter structure, however, is controversial and remains poorly understood. Here, we used diffusion tensor imaging to examine the effects of BDNF Val(66)Met genotype on white matter microstructure in a sample of 85 healthy Caucasian adults. We demonstrate decreases of fractional anisotropy and widespread increases in radial diffusivity in Val/Val homozygotes compared with Met-allele carriers, particularly in prefrontal and occipital pathways. These data provide an independent confirmation of prior imaging genetics work, are consistent with complex effects of the BDNF Val(66)Met polymorphism on human brain structure, and may serve to generate hypotheses about variation in white matter microstructure in mental disorders associated with this variant.

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