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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2017 (2017), Article ID 7260130, 17 pages
Review Article

Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, Depression, and Physical Activity: Making the Neuroplastic Connection

Department of Physical Therapy, A-State, Jonesboro, AR, USA

Correspondence should be addressed to Cristy Phillips

Received 14 April 2017; Accepted 18 July 2017; Published 8 August 2017

Academic Editor: Frank S. Hall

Copyright © 2017 Cristy Phillips. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a neurotrophin that is vital to the survival, growth, and maintenance of neurons in key brain circuits involved in emotional and cognitive function. Convergent evidence indicates that neuroplastic mechanisms involving BDNF are deleteriously altered in major depressive disorder (MDD) and animal models of stress. Herein, clinical and preclinical evidence provided that stress-induced depressive pathology contributes to altered BDNF level and function in persons with MDD and, thereby, disruptions in neuroplasticity at the regional and circuit level. Conversely, effective therapeutics that mitigate depressive-related symptoms (e.g., antidepressants and physical activity) optimize BDNF in key brain regions, promote neuronal health and recovery of function in MDD-related circuits, and enhance pharmacotherapeutic response. A greater knowledge of the interrelationship between BDNF, depression, therapeutic mechanisms of action, and neuroplasticity is important as it necessarily precedes the derivation and deployment of more efficacious treatments.