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PLoS One. 2017 Feb 27;12(2):e0172270. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0172270. eCollection 2017.

Meta-analyses of comparative efficacy of antidepressant medications on peripheral BDNF concentration in patients with depression.

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Department of Neurology, Yongchuan Hospital, Chongqing Medical University, Chongqing, China.
College of Computer and Information Science, Southwest University, Chongqing, China.
Institute of Life Sciences, Chongqing Medical University, Chongqing, China.
Children's Hospital of Chongqing Medical University, Chongqing Medical University, Chongqing, China.
Department of neurology, University-town hospital of Chongqing Medical University, Chongqing, China.
Department of Physics, University of Fribourg, Fribourg, Switzerland.



Brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is one of the most important regulatory proteins in the pathophysiology of major depressive disorder (MDD). Increasing numbers of studies have reported the relationship between serum/plasma BDNF and antidepressants (ADs). However, the potential effects of several classes of antidepressants on BDNF concentrations are not well known. Hence, our meta-analyses aims to review the effects of differential antidepressant drugs on peripheral BDNF levels in MDD and make some recommendations for future research.


Electronic databases including PubMed, EMBASE, the Cochrane Library, Web of Science, and PsycINFO were searched from 1980 to June 2016. The change in BDNF levels were compared between baseline and post-antidepressants treatment by use of the standardized mean difference (SMD) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs). All statistical tests were two-sided.


We identified 20 eligible trials of antidepressants treatments for BDNF in MDD. The overall effect size for all drug classes showed that BDNF levels were elevated following a course of antidepressants use. For between-study heterogeneity by stratification analyses, we detect that length of treatment and blood samples are significant effect modifiers for BDNF levels during antidepressants treatment. While both SSRIs and SNRIs could increase the BDNF levels after a period of antidepressant medication treatment, sertraline was superior to other three drugs (venlafaxine, paroxetine or escitalopram) in the early increase of BDNF concentrations with SMD 0.53(95% CI = 0.13-0.93; P = 0.009).


There is some evidence that treatment of antidepressants appears to be effective in the increase of peripheral BDNF levels. More robust evidence indicates that different types of antidepressants appear to induce differential effects on the BDNF levels. Since sertraline makes a particular effect on BDNF concentration within a short amount of time, there is potential value in exploring its relationship with BDNF and its pharmacological mechanism concerning peripheral blood BDNF. Further confirmatory trials are required for both observations.

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