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Panminerva Med. 2013 Dec;55(4):377-84.

Plasma brain derived neurotrophic factor levels and neuropsychological aspects of depressed patients treated with paroxetine.

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Unit of Clinical Psychology Department of Neuroscience University of Turin, Turin, Italy -



Studies on major depressive disorders (MDD) pathophysiology show decreased blood levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) that increase after antidepressant treatment. The link between BDNF levels and antidepressants is still controversial. In addiction, there is a relationship between MDD and concurrent cognitive function. Hippocampus is linked to memory and learning and BDNF is abundant in this area. For this reason we investigated the presence of any association between paroxetine treatment, BDNF levels and cognitive performances in depressed patients.


Sixteen patients with MDD were compared with a control group of 18 randomly selected healthy individuals. Blood samples were taken and clinical and neuropsychological assessments were performed at baseline and after two months of treatment. Plasma and serum BDNF levels were measured with the Elisa method.


Plasma BDNF levels are lower in depressed patients and increased after treatment. No serum BDNF significant differences were found. Depressed patients showed a mild deficit in prose memory tests that reached normality after antidepressant treatment. No correlations were evidenced between patients plasma BDNF levels and cognitive results.


To our knowledge this is one of the few studies on the effects of paroxetine treatment on plasma BDNF levels. We confirm literature data regarding the link between BDNF plasma levels, depression and antidepressant treatments. In addiction we found a specific cognitive deficit of depressed patients.

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