Brain-derived neurotrophic factor correlates with functional and cognitive impairment in non-disabled older individuals

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We used a complete battery of geriatric and psychometric tests to evaluate whether plasma-borne brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a master molecule in neuroplasticity, is associated with the severity of functional and cognitive impairment in non-disabled older individuals. There was a significant positive correlation between BDNF plasma concentrations and the Barthel index, a measurement of the ability of individuals to perform the activities of daily living (p = 0.03) and the concentration subcategory measured with the mini mental state examination (MMSE) test (p = 0.01). Furthermore, plasma BDNF inversely and significantly correlated with the blood eosinophil count (p = 0.01), the total cholesterol concentration (p = 0.04), and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (p = 0.04). However, BDNF did not correlate with any other socio-demographic or clinical characteristics, other analytical parameters measured in the blood, or any other geriatric assessment scales. Our results suggest that BDNF may play a role in the pathophysiology of functional impairment in the elderly and in some aspects of cognitive function. However, more studies are needed to understand the relationship between circulating BDNF and functional impairment to determine if BDNF represents a candidate biomarker for this type of cognitive impairment.

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