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J Psychiatr Res. 2013 Jul;47(7):908-15. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2013.03.006. Epub 2013 Apr 9.

Additional ECT increases BDNF-levels in patients suffering from major depressive disorders compared to patients treated with citalopram only.

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1
Research Center for Behavioral Disorders and Substances Abuse, Hamadan University of Medical Sciences, Hamadan, Iran.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

In patients suffering from major depressive disorders (MDD), improvements in MDD are related to increased activation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), an endogenous protein that facilitates neural functioning. To treat patients suffering from severe MDD, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is considered an efficacious and safe intervention, though the impact of ECT on plasma BDNF levels has thus far barely been investigated. The aim of the present study was therefore to assess plasma BDNF levels and depression of patients suffering from severe MDD treated with additional ECT compared to patients treated with citalopram only.

METHODS:

A total of 40 patients (mean age: M = 31.45 years; females 30%) suffering from MDD and all receiving 40 mg/d citalopram were assigned either to a control group (N = 20), or to a target group (N = 20) undergoing additional 12 sessions of ECT. Plasma BDNF and symptom severity were assessed at baseline and four weeks later.

RESULTS:

Plasma BDNF increased in both groups over time, though the significant Time by Group-interaction revealed an increase of 101% in the target group as compared to the control group. Symptom severity significantly decreased in both groups over time, though without being related to plasma BDNF levels.

CONCLUSIONS:

Data from the present study suggest that, in patients suffering from severe MDD, treatment with citalopram was associated both with an increase of plasma BDNF and amelioration of depression, while additional ECT was associated with even higher plasma BDNF levels. Further studies should focus on possible cognitive and behavioral consequences.

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