Higher Levels of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) Protein Found in Brains of Older Patients with Slower Rates of Cognitive Decline

Older people with higher amounts of a key protein in their brains also had slower decline in their memory and thinking abilities than people with lower amounts of protein from the gene called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), according to a study published online on January 27, 2016, in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The article is titled “Higher Brain BDNF Gene Expression Is Associated with Slower Cognitive Decline in Older Adults,” “This relationship was strongest among the people with the most signs of Alzheimer's disease pathology in their brains," said study first author Aron S. Buchman, M.D., of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. "This suggests that a higher level of protein from BDNF gene expression may provide a buffer, or reserve, for the brain and protect it against the effects of the plaques and tangles that form in the brain as a part of Alzheimer's disease.” For the study, 535 people with an average age of 81 were followed until death, for an average of six years. The subjects took yearly tests of their thinking and memory skills, and after death, a neurologist reviewed their records and determined whether they had dementia, some memory and thinking problems called mild cognitive impairment, or no thinking and memory problems. Autopsies were conducted on their brains after death, and the amount of protein from BDNF gene expression in the brain was then measured. The participants were part of the Rush Memory and Aging Project and the Religious Orders Study. The rate of cognitive decline was about 50 percent slower for those in the highest 10 percent of protein from BDNF gene expression compared to the lowest 10 percent.
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