Association between BDNF levels and suicidal behaviour: a systematic review and meta-analysis
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BACKGROUND: Suicidal behaviour is a complex phenomenon with a multitude of risk factors. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein crucial to nervous system function, may be involved in suicide risk. The objective of this systematic review is to evaluate and summarize the literature examining the relationship between BDNF levels and suicidal behaviour. METHODS: A predefined search strategy was used to search MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsychINFO, and CINAHL from inception to December 2015. Studies were included if they investigated the association between BDNF levels and suicidal behaviours (including completed suicide, attempted suicide, or suicidal ideation) by comparing BDNF levels in groups with and without suicidal behaviour. Only the following observational studies were included: case-control and cohort studies. Both clinical- and community-based samples were included. Screening, data extraction, and risk of bias assessment were conducted in duplicate. RESULTS: Six-hundred thirty-one articles were screened, and 14 were included in the review. Three studies that assessed serum BDNF levels in individuals with suicide attempts and controls were combined in a meta-analysis that showed no significant association between serum BDNF and suicide attempts. The remaining 11 studies were not eligible for the meta-analysis and provided inconsistent findings regarding associations between BDNF and suicidal behaviour. CONCLUSIONS: The findings of the meta-analysis indicate that there is no significant association between serum BDNF and attempted suicide. The qualitative review of the literature did not provide consistent support for an association between BDNF levels and suicidal behaviour. The evidence has significant methodological limitations. SYSTEMATIC REVIEW REGISTRATION: PROSPERO CRD42015015871.
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