Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor and Cognitive Function
"Miracle-gro for the brain."
You've probably heard of BDNF, but you may not have known its significant role in cognitive function. In part 1 of this article, we'll explore what BDNF is and explore the role of BDNF in learning and memory, and higher cognitive functioning.
Part 1: What is BDNF?
BDNF is a neurotrophin
BDNF is a protein that is found on the human chromosome 11p14.1 and is associated with numerous biological functions, including dopaminergic, cholinergic, and GABAergic signaling. The protein also appears to play a role in synaptogenesis. Researchers are now looking into ways to use BDNF as a therapeutic strategy in multiple sclerosis.
BDNF has several roles in the nervous system, including functioning as a neurotransmitter modulator and participating in neuronal plasticity. It is expressed in the CNS, the gut, and other tissues. It binds to the high-affinity receptor TrkB and activates signal transduction cascades. The molecule is also essential in the regulation of glucose metabolism and the protection of b cells.
Neurotrophins and brain development
Neurotrophins are a vital part of brain development and are associated with various processes, including neuronal survival, plasticity, and neurotransmitter regulation. Studies have shown that BDNF concentrations are decreased in patients with various neurological conditions, including Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. This may be because of an abnormal state of the brain, known as neuroinflammation. This condition affects several BDNF-related signaling pathways.
The aging process is associated with numerous brain disorders. Studies have shown that the volume of the entire brain, including cognition-related areas, decreases with age. Furthermore, aging induces a pro-inflammatory state in microglia. These changes in the microglia can lead to volume loss and apoptosis, two factors that are associated with cognitive dysfunction.