, Volume 231, Issue 15, pp 2955–2965 | Cite as

High baseline BDNF serum levels and early psychopathological improvement are predictive of treatment outcome in major depression

  • Thorsten Mikoteit
  • Johannes Beck
  • Anne Eckert
  • Ulrich Hemmeter
  • Serge Brand
  • Roland Bischof
  • Edith Holsboer-Trachsler
  • Alexandra Delini-Stula
Original Investigation



Major depressive disorder has been associated with low serum levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (sBDNF), which is functionally involved in neuroplasticity. Although sBDNF levels tend to normalize following psychopathological improvement with antidepressant treatment, it is unclear how closely sBDNF changes are associated with treatment outcome.


To examine whether baseline sBDNF or early changes in sBDNF are predictive of response to therapy.


Twenty-five patients with major depressive disorder underwent standardized treatment with duloxetine. Severity of depression, measured by the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, and sBDNF were assessed at baseline, and after 1, 2, and 6 weeks of treatment. Therapy outcome after 6 weeks was defined as response (≥50 % reduction in baseline Hamilton Depression Rating score) and remission (Hamilton Depression Rating score <8). The predictive values for treatment outcome of baseline sBDNF, and early (i.e., ≤2 weeks) changes in sBDNF and Hamilton Depression Rating score were also assessed.


At baseline, sBDNF correlated with Hamilton Depression Rating scores. Treatment response was associated with a higher baseline sBDNF concentration, and a greater Hamilton Depression Rating score reduction after 1 and 2 weeks. A greater early rise in sBDNF correlated with a decreased early Hamilton Depression Rating score reduction.


Even though higher baseline sBDNF levels are associated with more severe depression, they may reflect an increased capacity to respond to treatment. In contrast, changes in sBDNF over the full course of treatment are not associated with psychopathological improvement.


Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) Serum Depression Treatment outcome Early response Response Remission Antidepressants Serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) Duloxetine 



This study is an Investigator Initiated Study (ITT) financed by a special grant from Eli Lilly SA, Switzerland. The company had, however, no influence on either the designing or writing of the protocol of the study or analysis and interpretation of study results. The preparation of the manuscript for publication was not supported by the company. E. H. and A. D. are members of the Eli Lilly Advisory Board. A. D. has consulted for the company on various occasions and was involved in the preparation of paid expert reports and educational programs for GPs. No potential conflicts of interests exist for other authors. The authors thank Nick Emler (Surrey, UK) for proofreading the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thorsten Mikoteit
    • 1
  • Johannes Beck
    • 1
  • Anne Eckert
    • 2
  • Ulrich Hemmeter
    • 3
  • Serge Brand
    • 1
  • Roland Bischof
    • 4
  • Edith Holsboer-Trachsler
    • 1
  • Alexandra Delini-Stula
    • 4
  1. 1.Center for Affective, Stress and Sleep Disorders (ZASS)Psychiatric Clinics of the University of BaselBaselSwitzerland
  2. 2.Neurobiology Laboratory for Brain Aging and Mental HealthPsychiatric Clinics of the University of BaselBaselSwitzerland
  3. 3.Center of Education and Research (COEUR)Psychiatric Service Canton of St. GallenWilSwitzerland
  4. 4.ADI International Institute for Advancement of Drug Development GmbHBaselSwitzerland

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