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Impact of BDNF and sex on maintaining intact memory function in early midlife

Konishi K1, Cherkerzian S2, Aroner S1, Jacobs EG3, Rentz DM4, Remington A1, Aizley H1, Hornig M5, Klibanski A6, Goldstein JM7.

Neurobiol Aging. 2019 Dec 24. pii: S0197-4580(19)30442-7. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2019.12.014. [Epub ahead of print]

Abstract
Sex steroid hormones and neurotrophic factors, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), play a significant neuroprotective role in memory circuitry aging. Here, we present findings characterizing the neuroprotective effects of BDNF on memory performance, as a function of sex and reproductive status in women. Participants (N = 191; mean age = 50.03 ± 2.10) underwent clinical and cognitive testing, fMRI scanning, and hormonal assessments of menopausal staging. Memory performance was assessed with the 6-Trial Selective Reminding Test and the Face-Name Associative Memory Exam. Participants also performed a working memory (WM) N-back task during fMRI scanning. Results revealed significant interactions between menopausal status and BDNF levels. Only in postmenopausal women, lower plasma BDNF levels were associated with significantly worse memory performance and altered function in the WM circuitry. BDNF had no significant impact on memory performance or WM function in pre/perimenopausal women or men. These results suggest that in postmenopausal women, BDNF is associated with memory performance and memory circuitry function, thus providing evidence of potential sex-dependent factors of risk and resilience for early intervention.