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BACKGROUND: Brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) plays a vital role in neuronal survival and plasticity and facilitates long-term potentiation, essential for memory. Alterations in BDNF signaling have been associated with cognitive impairment, dementia, and Alzheimer's disease. Although peripheral BDNF levels are reduced in dementia patients, it is unclear whether changes in BDNF levels precede or follow dementia onset. OBJECTIVE: In the present study, we examined the association between BDNF plasma levels and dementia risk over a follow-up period of up to 16 years. METHODS: Plasma BDNF levels were assessed in 758 participants of the Rotterdam Study. Dementia was assessed from baseline (1997-1999) to follow-up until January 2016. Associations of plasma BDNF and incident dementia were assessed with Cox proportional hazards models, adjusted for age and sex. Associations between plasma BDNF and lifestyle and metabolic factors are investigated using linear regression. RESULTS: During a follow up of 3,286 person-years, 131 participants developed dementia, of whom 104 had Alzheimer's disease. We did not find an association between plasma BDNF and risk of dementia (adjusted hazard ratio 0.99; 95%CI 0.84-1.16). BDNF levels were positively associated with age (B = 0.003, SD = 0.001, p = 0.002), smoking (B = 0.08, SE = 0.01, p = <  0.001), and female sex (B = 0.03, SE = 0.01, p = 0.03), but not with physical activity level (B = -0.01, SE = 0.01, p = 0.06). CONCLUSION: The findings suggest that peripheral BDNF levels are not associated with an increased risk of dementia.

Original publication




Journal article


J Alzheimers Dis

Publication Date



Aging, Alzheimer’s disease, brain-derived neurotropic factor, dementia, genetic epidemiology