It has been frequently reported that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) plays an important role in the pathophysiology of major depressive disorder (MDD). Objective of the study was to investigate BDNF levels variations in MDD patients during antidepressant treatment with duloxetine. 30 MDD patients and 32 healthy controls were assessed using Hamilton Depression Scale (HAM-D) and monitored for BDNF plasma levels at baseline, week 6 and week 12 of duloxetine treatment (60 mg/day) and at baseline, respectively. According to early clinical response to duloxetine (defined at week 6 by reduction >50 % of baseline HAM-D score), MDD patients were distinguished in early responders (ER) and early non-responders (ENR), who reached clinical response at week 12. Laboratory analysis showed significant lower baseline BDNF levels among patients compared to controls. During duloxetine treatment, in ENR BDNF levels increased, reaching values not significantly different compared to controls, while in ER BDNF levels remained nearly unchanged. Lower baseline BDNF levels observed in patients possibly confirm an impairment of the NEI stress-adaptation system and neuroplasticity in depression, while BDNF increase and normalization observed only in ENR might suggest differential neurobiological backgrounds in ER vs. ENR within the depressive syndrome.
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