The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology

Research Article

Decreased serum levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in adults with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder

Margarida Corominas-Rosoa1a2 c1, Josep A. Ramos-Quirogaa1a2a3, Marta Ribasesa1a2a4, Cristina Sanchez-Moraa1a4, Gloria Palomara1, Sergi Valeroa1a2, Rosa Boscha1a2 and Miguel Casasa1a2a3

a1 Department of Psychiatry, Hospital Universitari Vall d'Hebron (UAB), Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

a2 Biomedical Network Research Centre on Mental Health (CIBERSAM), Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

a3 Department of Psychiatry and Legal Medicine, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

a4 Psychiatric Genetics Unit, Vall d'Hebron Research Institute (VHIR), Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain


It has been hypothesized that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is involved in the pathogenesis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), although experimental data regarding the contribution of BDNF gene polymorphisms to this psychiatric disorder are controversial. Recently, changes in BDNF serum levels have been reported in children with ADHD, but there are no studies about the possible role of this neurotrophin in adults. A total of 54 Caucasoid ADHD adults, including the predominantly inattentive and combined types (aged 33.43 ± 8.99 yr) and 59 Caucasoid unrelated healthy controls (aged 35.52 ± 9.37 yr) were included in a study to evaluate BDNF levels in serum. Medical, neurological and psychiatric co-morbidities were excluded. Clinical data concerning ADHD diagnosis and blood samples for patients and controls were collected. BDNF serum levels were significantly lower in adults with ADHD compared to healthy controls (p < 0.0001). Although the combined type of ADHD subgroup displayed lower BDNF serum levels than the inattentive type, the differences did not reach statistical significance. No significant correlations were found between serum BDNF levels and scores on the Conners’ Adult ADHD Rating Subscales. These results suggest a role for BDNF in ADHD, at least in those patients whose disorder persists throughout life. Low BDNF levels may contribute to the neurodevelopmental deficits of ADHD and to the persistence of the disorder into adulthood. BDNF differences between ADHD subtypes should be further studied.

(Received May 21 2012)

(Reviewed August 03 2012)

(Revised November 03 2012)

(Accepted December 10 2012)

(Online publication January 03 2013)

Key words

  • ADHD;
  • BDNF;
  • brain-derived neurotrophic factor;
  • epigenetics;
  • neurodevelopment


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr M. Corominas-Roso, Psychiatry Department, Vall d'Hebron University Hospital, Escola d'Infermeria building 5th floor, Pg. Vall d'Hebron, 119-129, 08035 Barcelona, Spain. Tel.: +34 93 489 4294 Fax: +34 93 489 4587 Email:;