Effects of the BDNF val 66 met polymorphism on white matter microstructure in healthy adults

Heike Tost, Tajvar Alam, Matthew Geramita, Christine Rebsch, Bhaskar Kolachana, Dwight Dickinson, Beth A. Verchinski, Herve Lemaitre, Alan S. Barnett, Joey W. Trampush, Daniel R. Weinberger, Stefano Marenco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The BDNF Val 66 Met polymorphism, a possible risk variant for mental disorders, is a potent modulator of neural plasticity in humans and has been linked to deficits in gray matter structure, function, and cognition. The impact of the variant on brain white matter structure, however, is controversial and remains poorly understood. Here, we used diffusion tensor imaging to examine the effects of BDNF Val 66 Met genotype on white matter microstructure in a sample of 85 healthy Caucasian adults. We demonstrate decreases of fractional anisotropy and widespread increases in radial diffusivity in Val/Val homozygotes compared with Met-allele carriers, particularly in prefrontal and occipital pathways. These data provide an independent confirmation of prior imaging genetics work, are consistent with complex effects of the BDNF Val 66 Met polymorphism on human brain structure, and may serve to generate hypotheses about variation in white matter microstructure in mental disorders associated with this variant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)525-532
Number of pages8
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain-derived neurotrophic factor
  • diffusion tensor imaging
  • myelin
  • radial diffusivity
  • working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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