Review: Involvement of BDNF in Age-Dependent Alterations in the Hippocampus

There is an interesting review article ‘Involvement of BDNF in Age-Dependent Alterations in the Hippocampus’ by Von Bohlen und Halbach which is freely available here. In the abstract the authors writes that

growth factors may play an important role in the maintenance of the postnatal hippocampal architecture

The review is divided into two broad sections – one on the aging hippocampus and the other on Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor. In the first section I was particularly interested by the author’s identification of the causes of hippocampal shrinkage. The author directly challenges the assumption that this results entirely from loss of neurons and instead points out some of the subtle changes in neuronal architecture that contribute to this reduction in addition to neuronal cell loss. Reduced hippocampal volume is a significant risk factor for development of Alzheimer’s Disease and so this suggests that these other pathological findings may offer useful insights into the disease process. What is particularly interesting is that the author identifies some important properties of a neuromodulating agent that would be associated with age-related changes in the hippocampus. The author then goes on to demonstrate how BDNF meets the criteria set out above. The author details for instance how BDNF influences survival of dopaminergic, serotonergic and noradrenergic neurons as well as providing some evidence of a role for BDNF in Alzheimer’s Disease.

The review is very simple in its structure but a thoughtful approach to working out the properties of an age related modulator of hippocampus structure and function has resulted in a useful framework for considering the biological properties of BDNF and I think this would be a useful resource for those interested in the hippocampus,  BDNF or the biological aspects of Alzheimer’s Disease.

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