Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is associated with depressive symptoms in older adults with HIV disease

Steven Paul Woods, Michelle Babicz, Lokesh Shahani, Gabriela Delevati Colpo, Erin E. Morgan, Antonio L. Teixeira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Symptoms of depression are common among persons with HIV (PWH) and can have a significant impact on socioeconomic and personal well-being, but little is known about their neurobiological substrates in the context of HIV disease. This study examined the possible role of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in symptoms of depression and other aspects of mood in 109 PWH and 43 seronegative participants aged 50 and older. Participants completed the Profile of Mood States (POMS) which measured six dimensions of mood and was normatively adjusted for sex. A model controlling for medical comorbidities and substance use diagnoses among PWH showed a significant interaction between BDNF and POMS subscales. Planned post hoc analyses revealed that lower BDNF was only associated with higher scores on Depression-Dejection and Confusion-Bewilderment POMS subscales among PWH and at small-to-medium effect sizes. Lower levels of BDNF were associated with AIDS diagnoses and CD4 count, but not with viremia or duration of infection. BDNF levels did not differ between the PWH and HIV − samples, and there were no significant correlations between BDNF and any POMS variable in the HIV − group. Findings implicate BDNF in the neuropathophysiology of specific depressive symptoms in the context of HIV disease. Future studies may examine whether BDNF levels change over time, are sensitive to other aspects of mood disorders in HIV, and are associated with markers of HIV-associated neural injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)70-79
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of NeuroVirology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomarkers
  • Infectious disease
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Neuropsychiatry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Virology


Dive into the research topics of 'Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is associated with depressive symptoms in older adults with HIV disease'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this