Serum BDNF levels in patients with gambling disorder are associated with the severity of gambling disorder and Iowa Gambling Task indices

Abstract

Background and aims:
Gambling disorder (GD) shares many similarities with substance use disorders (SUDs) in clinical, neurobiological, and neurocognitive features, including decision-making. We evaluated the relationships among, GD, decision-making, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), as measured by serum BDNF levels.

Methods:
Twenty-one male patients with GD and 21 healthy sex- and age-matched control subjects were evaluated for associations between serum BDNF levels and the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI), as well as between serum BDNF levels and Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) indices.

Results:
The mean serum BDNF levels were significantly increased in patients with GD compared to healthy controls. A significant correlation between serum BDNF levels and PGSI scores was found when controlling for age, depression, and duration of GD. A significant negative correlation was obtained between serum BDNF levels and IGT improvement scores.

Discussion:
These findings support the hypothesis that serum BDNF levels constitute a dual biomarker for the neuroendocrine changes and the severity of GD in patients. Serum BDNF level may serve as an indicator of poor decision-making performance and learning processes in GD and help to identify the common physiological underpinnings between GD and SUDs.

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