Early changes of serum BDNF and SSRI response in adolescents with major depressive disorder

Jung Lee, Kyung Hwa Lee, Seong Hae Kim, Ji Youn Han, Soon Beom Hong, Soo Churl Cho, Jae Won Kim, David Brent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Recent evidence suggests that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels and their early changes may predict antidepressant response in adults with major depressive disorder (MDD). However, in adolescents, BDNF levels in depression and their changes during antidepressant treatment are relatively unknown. We aimed to investigate whether pre-treatment BDNF levels and their early changes predict antidepressant response in depressed adolescents. Methods: The study included 83 MDD adolescents and 52 healthy controls aged 12 to 17 years. All depressed adolescents were treated with escitalopram in an 8 week, open-label trial. Depression severity and serum BDNF level at baseline, and weeks 2 and 8 were measured with the Children's Depression Rating Scale-Revised (CDRS-R) and ELISA, respectively. Results: Responders showed a significant decrease in BDNF levels at week 2 but non-responders and healthy controls had no changes in BDNF levels at week 2. The early decrease (baseline – week 2) of BDNF levels predicted SSRI response with moderate sensitivity and specificity. Logistic regression analysis revealed that early BDNF decrease predicted SSRI response at week 8 after controlling for other demographic and clinical variables. Limitations: The follow-up duration of the study was limited in 8 weeks. It remains possible that serum BDNF levels would have changed with longer treatment. Conclusions: This is the first longitudinal study to investigate the effect of antidepressants on BDNF levels in adolescents with MDD. Our findings suggest that a decrease of serum BDNF levels in early phase of SSRI treatment may be associated later SSRI response in adolescents with MDD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-332
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - 15 Mar 2020



  • Adolescents
  • Antidepressant response
  • Biomarker
  • Brain-derived neurotrophic factor
  • Major depressive disorder

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