BDNF and Synaptic Plasticity, Cognitive Function, and Dysfunction

  • B. LuEmail author
  • G. Nagappan
  • Y. Lu
Part of the Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology book series (HEP, volume 220)


Among all neurotrophins, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) stands out for its high level of expression in the brain and its potent effects on synapses. It is now widely accepted that the main function of BDNF in the adult brain is to regulate synapses, with structural and functional effects ranging from short-term to long-lasting, on excitatory or inhibitory synapses, in many brain regions. The diverse effects of BDNF on brain synapses stem from its complex downstream signaling cascades, as well as the diametrically opposing effects of the pro- and mature form through distinct receptors, TrkB and p75NTR. Many aspects of BDNF cell biology are regulated by neuronal activity. The synergistic interactions between neuronal activity and synaptic plasticity by BDNF make it an ideal and essential regulator of cellular processes that underlie cognition and other complex behaviors. Indeed, numerous studies firmly established that BDNF plays a critical role in hippocampal long-term potentiation (LTP), a long-term enhancement of synaptic efficacy thought to underlie learning and memory. Converging evidence now strongly suggest that deficits in BDNF signaling contribute to the pathogenesis of several major diseases and disorders such as Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression. Thus, manipulating BDNF pathways represents a viable treatment approach to a variety of neurological and psychiatric disorders.


Brain-derived neurotrophic factor Synaptic plasticity mRNA trafficking 



Brain-derived neurotrophic factor


BDNF GFP knockin in exon IV


Cornu ammonis areas 1 and 3


Early phase long-term potentiation


Glutamate decarboxylase




High frequency stimulation






Late phase long-term potentiation


Long-term depression


Mature BDNF


Matrix metalloprotease


Magnetic resonance imaging


N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor


p75 neurotrophin receptor


Precursor BDNF


Plasticity-related protein




Single nucleotide polymorphism


Spike time-dependent plasticity


Theta burst stimulation


Transcranial direct current stimulation


Tissue plasminogen activator


Tropomyosin-related kinase B


Untranslated region


Valine 66 to methionine


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.GlaxoSmithKline, R&D ChinaPudong, ShanghaiChina
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry, Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of MedicineThe University of IowaIowa CityUSA

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