Cortisol and Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Levels Prior to Treatment in Children With Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Objective: In this study, we investigated serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), and cortisol levels between children with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) prior to treatment and healthy controls. In addition, the study aimed to assess any correlations between OCD symptom severity and BDNF, ACTH, and cortisol levels.

Methods: Twenty-nine children, aged from 7 to 17 years (male/female: 21/8) and diagnosed with OCD according to DSM-IV prior to treatment, were compared with 25 healthy control subjects (male/female: 16/9). The study was conducted between December 2012 and December 2013. The Kiddie Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia, Present and Lifetime Version (K-SADS-PL), Children’s Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale, and Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI) were administered to the children. BDNF, ACTH, and cortisol levels were detected using a prepared kit with the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay method.

Results: BDNF, ACTH, and cortisol levels in the OCD group were significantly higher when compared with the control group (P = .02, P = .03, and P = .046, respectively). No association was detected between the severity and duration of OCD symptoms and BDNF, ACTH, and cortisol levels. CDI scores in both groups were similar. The mean (SD) duration of OCD symptoms was 17.9 (18.5) months.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that BDNF levels adaptively increase as a result of the damaging effects of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis hyperactivity on brain tissue in the early stages of OCD. HPA axis abnormalities and BDNF may play a role in the pathogenesis of the disease.

J Clin Psychiatry 2016;77(7):e855–e859

https://doi.org/10.4088/JCP.15m10146