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Cord serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels at birth associate with temperament outcomes at one year

Dingsdale, Hayley ORCID:, Garay, Samantha M., Tyson, Hannah R., Savory, Katrina A., Sumption, Lorna A. ORCID:, Kelleher, Jemima S., Langley, Kate ORCID:, Van Goozen, Stephanie ORCID: and John, Rosalind M. ORCID: 2022. Cord serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels at birth associate with temperament outcomes at one year. Journal of Psychiatric Research 150 , 47-53. 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2022.03.009

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Altered serum levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) are consistently linked with neurological disorders. BDNF is also increasingly implicated in the pathogenesis of neurodevelopmental disorders, particularly those found more frequently in males. At birth, male infants naturally have significantly lower serum BDNF levels (∼10–20% lower than females), which may render them more vulnerable to neurodevelopmental disorders. We previously characterized serum BDNF levels in mothers and their newborn infants as part of the Grown in Wales Study. Here, we analyzed whether cord serum BDNF levels at birth correlate with sex-specific outcomes at one year. The Bayley Scale of Infant Development, Third Edition (BSID-III) and Laboratory Temperament Assessment Battery (Lab-TAB) tasks were used to assess infant behavior and neurodevelopment at 12–14 months (mean ± SD: 13.3 ± 1.6 months; 46% male; n = 56). We found no relationship between serum BDNF levels at birth and BSID-III neurodevelopmental outcomes (cognitive or language), nor with infant behaviors in the Lab-TAB unpredictable mechanical toy or maternal separation tasks. In the sustained attention task, there was a significant positive relationship between serum BDNF and infant negative affect (B = 0.06, p = 0.018) and, for boys only, between serum BDNF and intensity of facial interest (B = 0.03, p = 0.005). However, only the latter remained after correction for multiple testing. This sex-specific association between cord serum BDNF and a parameter of attention at 12–14 months provides some support for the hypothesis that reduced serum BDNF levels at birth are linked to an increased risk for neurodevelopmental disorders.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Additional Information: This is an open access article under the CC BY license (
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0022-3956
Funders: MRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 29 March 2022
Date of Acceptance: 4 March 2022
Last Modified: 05 Jan 2024 08:08

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