Is blood brain-derived neurotrophic factor a useful biomarker to monitor mild cognitive impairment patients?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Availability of reliable prognostic biomarkers that are also able to monitor preventive/therapeutic interventions in patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is crucial. Cerebral brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) alterations were evidenced in Alzheimer's disease, but the value of blood BDNF in MCI is unclear, especially because of the incomplete/incorrect management of the numerous confounding factors unrelated to the disease. This study, applying a multidisciplinary methodological approach, aimed at clarifying whether blood BDNF can really mirror the cognitive symptoms of MCI, thus supporting the evaluation of clinical protocols' effectiveness as well as the definition of the conversion rate to dementia. Healthy elderly subjects (HE) and MCI patients were assessed for sociodemographic, neuropsychological, pharmacological, and lifestyle data, and plasma BDNF was measured (baseline); then, in the MCI cohort, the biomarker was tested in a comprehensive cognitive stimulation intervention (CS) as well as in a 2-year follow-up period. Plasma BDNF, cleansed from all the interfering factors, (1) did not discriminate HE and MCI patients; (2) in MCI patients reflected mood, social engagement, and subjective memory complaints but not cognition; (3) changed due to CS, although with no correlations to cognitive performances; and (4) predicted no functional deterioration. Our data indicate that the possible biased use of plasma BDNF in MCI is critically risky.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)411-419
Number of pages9
JournalRejuvenation Research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2020


  • Biomarker
  • Brain-derived neurotrophic factor
  • Comprehensive cognitive stimulation intervention
  • Interfering variables
  • Mild cognitive impairment
  • Prognosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ageing
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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