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Hippocampus. 2011 Sep;21(9):980-9. doi: 10.1002/hipo.20809. Epub 2010 May 20.

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor val66met polymorphism and hippocampal activation during episodic encoding and retrieval tasks.

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Department of Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802, USA.


Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a neurotrophin which has been shown to regulate cell survival and proliferation, as well as synaptic growth and hippocampal long-term potentiation. A naturally occurring single nucleotide polymorphism in the human BDNF gene (val66met) has been associated with altered intercellular trafficking and regulated secretion of BDNF in met compared to val carriers. Additionally, previous studies have found a relationship between the BDNF val66met genotype and functional activity in the hippocampus during episodic and working memory tasks in healthy young adults. Specifically, studies have found that met carriers exhibit both poorer performance and reduced neural activity within the medial temporal lobe (MTL) when performing episodic memory tasks. However, these studies have not been well replicated and have not considered the role of behavioral differences in the interpretation of neural differences. The current study sought to control for cognitive performance in investigating the role of the BDNF val66met genotype on neural activity associated with episodic memory. Across item and relational memory tests, met carriers exhibited increased MTL activation during both encoding and retrieval stages, compared to noncarriers. The results suggest that met carriers are able to recruit MTL activity to support successful memory processes, and reductions in cognitive performance observed in prior studies are not a ubiquitous effect associated with variants of the BDNF val66met genotype.

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