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The role of BDNF in the pathophysiology and treatment of schizophrenia

Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) has been associated with the pathophysiology of schizophrenia (SCZ). However, it remains unclear whether alterations in BDNF observed in patients with SCZ are a core part of disease neurobiology or a consequence of treatment. In this manuscript we review existing knowledge relating the function of BDNF to synaptic transmission and neural plasticity and the relationship between BDNF and both pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments for SCZ. With regards to synaptic transmission, exposure to BDNF or lack of this neurotrophin results in alteration to both excitatory and inhibitory synapses. Many authors have also evaluated the effects of both pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments for SCZ in BDNF and despite some controversial results, it seems that medicated and non-medicated patients present with lower levels of BDNF when compared to controls. Further data suggests that typical antipsychotics may decrease BDNF expression whereas mixed results have been obtained with atypical antipsychotics. The authors found few studies reporting changes in BDNF after non-pharmacological treatments for SCZ, so the existing evidence in this area is limited. Although the study of BDNF provides some new insights into understanding of the pathophysiology and treatment of SCZ, additional work in this area is needed.


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