Repetitive enhancement of serum BDNF subsequent to continuation ECT

T. Vanicek, G. S. Kranz, B. Vyssoki, A. Komorowski, G. Fugger, A. Höflich, Z. Micskei, S. Milovic, R. Lanzenberger, A. Eckert, S. Kasper, R. Frey

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

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Introduction: Continuation electroconvulsive therapy (c-ECT) is highly effective for the prevention of depressive symptom relapse. There is a lack of understanding, about how c-ECT works in humans, particularly with regard to its effects on brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) concentrations. Here, we aimed to close a gap in the literature by evaluating BDNF levels in patients receiving c-ECT. Methods: We included 13 patients with either unipolar or bipolar depression (mean age ± SD: 55.5 ± 17.1; f/m: 10/3; unipolar/bipolar: 10/3) who received between one and four c-ECT (average per patient: 2.8). Serum BDNF (sBDNF) levels were assessed before and after each c-ECT sessions. Clinical assessments were also administered both before and after treatment. Results: Our analysis revealed a significant increase in sBDNF after each treatment (c-ECT 1-3: P < 0.001, c-ECT 4: P = 0.018). The application of multiple c-ECT treatments was not, however, associated with further sBDNF enhancements. Psychometric scores were not significantly altered following c-ECT. Discussion: An increase in sBDNF concentrations subsequent to c-ECT parallel data from the animal literature, which has linked regularly applied electrical stimulation to neuroplastic processes. This finding suggests a relationship between ECT-induced sBDNF concentrations and (sustained) remission status, considering a stable clinical condition across c-ECT.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)426-434
Number of pages9
JournalActa Psychiatrica Scandinavica
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019


  • brain-derived neurotrophic factor
  • continuation electroconvulsive therapy
  • depression
  • unipolar and bipolar affective disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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