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Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2013 Jul;16(6):1267-1275. Epub 2013 Jan 30.

Decreased serum levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in adults with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

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Department of Psychiatry, Hospital Universitari Vall d'Hebron (UAB), Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.


It has been hypothesized that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is involved in the pathogenesis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), although experimental data regarding the contribution of BDNF gene polymorphisms to this psychiatric disorder are controversial. Recently, changes in BDNF serum levels have been reported in children with ADHD, but there are no studies about the possible role of this neurotrophin in adults. A total of 54 Caucasoid ADHD adults, including the predominantly inattentive and combined types (aged 33.43 ± 8.99 yr) and 59 Caucasoid unrelated healthy controls (aged 35.52 ± 9.37 yr) were included in a study to evaluate BDNF levels in serum. Medical, neurological and psychiatric co-morbidities were excluded. Clinical data concerning ADHD diagnosis and blood samples for patients and controls were collected. BDNF serum levels were significantly lower in adults with ADHD compared to healthy controls (p < 0.0001). Although the combined type of ADHD subgroup displayed lower BDNF serum levels than the inattentive type, the differences did not reach statistical significance. No significant correlations were found between serum BDNF levels and scores on the Conners' Adult ADHD Rating Subscales. These results suggest a role for BDNF in ADHD, at least in those patients whose disorder persists throughout life. Low BDNF levels may contribute to the neurodevelopmental deficits of ADHD and to the persistence of the disorder into adulthood. BDNF differences between ADHD subtypes should be further studied.

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