Mood and what impacts our moods is one of the most intensely researched areas in brain science. When diving deep into the factors that influence our state of mind, researchers have found that BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor) can be a key protein in how our body works.
To explore this, let's look at the role of BDNF in depression and the treatment of depression.
BDNF, Anti-Depression Drugs, and Depression
I was surprised to learn that many of the drugs used to treat depression, such as SSRIs and TCAs, cause increases in levels of BDNF. Studies that have been done looking at the brains of people with depression who have undergone anti-depressant drug regiments, show that taking antidepressant medication increases BDNF expression in the brain (Ref, Ref). Further research shows that antidepressant treatment for at least four weeks can restore the decreased BDNF function up to the normal value.
Research has shown that exercise can be an adjunct treatment for depression. A 2014 study published in Neuroscience Letters showed that one of the potential ways that exercise helps with this, is that exercise increases production of BDNF.
BDNF is a powerful protein in the body and it will be exciting to see how the research around the role of BDNF and brain health develops in the near future.