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Risk and Resilience: The Role of Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor in Alcohol Use Disorder

1 Department of Psychology, Texas State University, 601 University Drive, San Marcos, TX 78130, USA
2 Department of Biology, Texas State University, 601 University Drive, San Marcos, TX 78130, USA

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is well known for its role in synaptic plasticity. More recently, BDNF has come to be regarded as a potential resilience factor in a variety of conditions that are characterized by maladaptive neuroplasticity, including alcohol use disorder. Research in animal models suggests that BDNF may serve as a protective gatekeeper in the transition from social drinking to compulsive alcohol consumption. Further, stress-induced modification of BDNF signaling may have an important role in anxiety-modulated alcohol consumption. In this article, we will review recent studies of BDNF and alcohol use in human participants. Studies included in this review have used genetic or epigenetic approaches or have measured peripheral BDNF protein levels in serum or plasma. Importantly, a number of these studies have incorporated neuroimaging methods to provide information about structural and/or functional central nervous system correlates of BDNF measures in relation to alcohol use. While there remains a great deal of variability in research findings from human participants on this issue, a number of studies suggest that behavioral or pharmacological interventions designed to enhance neuroplasticity may be a promising avenue for future research on alcohol use disorder.
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Keywords brain-derived neurotrophic factor; BDNF; alcohol use disorder; alcohol; stress; resilience; neuroplasticity

Citation: Natalie Ceballos, Shobhit Sharma. Risk and Resilience: The Role of Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor in Alcohol Use Disorder. AIMS Neuroscience, 2016, 3(4): 398-432. doi: 10.3934/Neuroscience.2016.4.398

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