Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF)
Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) is the most common nerve growth factor in the brain. The nervous system uses BDNF to make new connections, maintain and repair nerves, repair myelin sheaths on nerve axons and regulate synaptic health. BDNF is a critical growth factor in pain and mood disorders. It can keep a disorder going or cause it to resolve. It regulates survival of nerve cells, differentiates nerve cells and plays a major role in neuroplasticity. A very small amount of BDNF is effective. Well regulated BDNF levels are important for normal brain function. Antidepressant treatments ranging from medications to psychotherapy and even Electroconvulsive therapy, all increase BDNF levels in the brain. Patients with depression have decreased BDNF levels in the hippocampus.
Yoga participants with chronic low back pain showed increased level of BDNF in one study. Medication appears to increase BDNF and thicken areas of cerebral cortex involved in mood regulation. Increased normal and pleasurable sensory input to the brain can positively alter BDNF levels, mood, anxiety and pain.