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Serum BDNF is Positively Associated with Negative Symptoms in Older Adults with Schizophrenia

  • Author(s): Binford, Sasha
  • Advisor(s): Leutwyler, Heather
  • et al.

Objectives: Older adults with chronic schizophrenia are at greater risk for functional disability and poorer health outcomes than those without serious mental illness. This population makes up 0.6% to 1% of the elderly population in the US and is projected to number approximately 15 million by 2030. The symptoms of schizophrenia can be disabling for individuals, significantly reducing their quality of life. Often, the negative symptoms are the most resistant to treatment and are considered a marker of illness severity, although challenging to measure objectively. Biomarkers can provide an objective indicator of health status. Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) is a potential biomarker for schizophrenia and may serve as an indicator of illness severity. Materials and methods: A cross-sectional study with 30 older adults with chronic schizophrenia. Participants were assessed on serum levels of BDNF and psychiatric symptoms (Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale; PANSS). Pearson’s bivariate correlations (two-tailed) and linear regression models were used. Results: Average serum levels of BDNF were 24.4 ng/mL (SD = 6.0). A significant positive association (p < .05) was found between higher serum levels of BDNF and greater severity for the negative symptom items that included passive, apathetic, social withdrawal, and emotional withdrawal. In multivariate analyses, the association remained significant. Conclusions: Although the association between BDNF and negative symptoms was not in the expected direction, the data corroborate findings from previous work in patients with schizophrenia. It is possible that higher serum levels of BDNF reflect compensatory mechanisms resulting from neurodevelopmental dysfunction.

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