Electroconvulsive therapy improves clinical manifestations of treatment-resistant depression without changing serum BDNF levels

Chiara Rapinesi, Georgios D. Kotzalidis, Martina Curto, Daniele Serata, Vittoria R. Ferri, Paola Scatena, Paolo Carbonetti, Flavia Napoletano, Jessica Miele, Sergio Scaccianoce, Antonio Del Casale, Ferdinando Nicoletti, Gloria Angeletti, Paolo Girardi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is effective in treatment-resistant depression (TRD). It may act through intracellular process modulation, but its exact mechanism is still unknown. Animal research supports a neurotrophic effect for ECT. We aimed to investigate the association between changes in serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor (sBDNF) levels and clinical improvement following ECT in patients with TRD. Twenty-one patients with TRD (2 men, 19 women; mean age, 63.5 years; S.D., 11.9) were assessed through the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS), the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS), and the Clinical Global Impressions scale, Severity (CGIs) before and after a complete ECT cycle. At the same time-points, patients underwent blood withdrawal for measuring sBDNF levels. ECT significantly reduced HDRS, BPRS, and CGIS scores, but not sBDNF levels. No significant correlation was found between sBDNF changes, and each of HDRS, BPRS, and CGIs score changes. sBDNF levels in TRD patients were low both at baseline and post-ECT. Our results do not support that improvements in TRD following ECT are mediated through increases in sBDNF levels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-178
Number of pages8
JournalPsychiatry Research
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 30 2015


  • Bipolar depression
  • Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), serum levels
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
  • Major depression
  • Treatment-resistant depression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Medicine(all)


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