Altered serum levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in patients with pathological gambling

Abstract

Background: Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) plays important roles in neurotransmitter release and synaptic plasticity and has been hypothesized to be involved in the development and maintenance of addictive disorders. The objective of this study was to investigate alterations of BDNF expression in a non-substance-related addiction, i.e. pathological gambling (PG). Methods: Serum levels of BDNF were assessed in male patients with PG (n = 14) and healthy control subjects (n = 13) carefully matched for sex, age, body mass index, smoking status and urbanicity. Symptoms and severity of PG were measured by the adapted form of the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale. Results: BDNF serum levels were significantly increased in patients with PG in comparison to healthy control subjects (p = 0.016). There were no significant correlations between BDNF serum levels and severity of PG or clinical and demographic variables. Conclusions: Our results show alterations of BDNF serum levels in patients suffering from a behavioural addiction and suggest that non-substance-related addictions like PG might be associated with neuroendocrinological changes similar to the changes observed in substance-related addictions.

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