BDNF: The Miracle Molecule for Brain Health

Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, commonly known as BDNF, is a protein that plays a significant role in the development, growth, and maintenance of our brains. It is responsible for regulating the growth and survival of neurons, the cells that transmit information throughout the brain and body. In recent years, BDNF has been the focus of extensive scientific research on its potential role in various neurological disorders. This post aims to provide a comprehensive overview of BDNF, its functions, and how we can increase its levels naturally. So let’s dive in!

What is BDNF?

BDNF is a protein that belongs to the family of neurotrophins, which are growth factors that play a crucial role in the development and survival of neurons. It is produced in multiple regions of the central nervous system (CNS), including the hippocampus, cortex, and basal forebrain. BDNF is primarily synthesized as a precursor protein, which is then cleaved into mature BDNF protein and propeptide. Mature BDNF protein is the biologically active form of BDNF that modulates various neurobiological functions.

Is BDNF a neurotransmitter or a hormone?

BDNF is not a neurotransmitter or a hormone. Rather, it is a protein that functions as a growth factor for neurons. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that transmit signals between neurons, while hormones are chemical messengers that are secreted into the bloodstream to act on distant target cells. BDNF is synthesized and released locally in the brain, where it acts on nearby neurons.

What does BDNF do in the brain?

BDNF plays a crucial role in the growth, differentiation, and survival of neurons throughout the brain. It regulates synaptic plasticity, which is the ability of neurons to adapt and change in response to experience and learning. BDNF stimulates the growth of new dendrites, the branched projections of neurons that receive signals from other neurons. It also promotes the formation of new synapses, the junctions between neurons that allow for communication and information transfer.

In addition to its role in neuron growth and survival, BDNF has been implicated in various neurological functions, including learning and memory, mood regulation, and stress response. Research has shown that BDNF levels are reduced in people with depression, and restoring BDNF function may be a viable treatment strategy for depression and other mood disorders.

What stimulates BDNF release?

Several factors have been shown to stimulate BDNF release, including exercise, dietary factors, and environmental enrichment. Exercise has been shown to significantly increase BDNF levels, particularly high-intensity aerobic exercise. Studies have shown that dietary factors such as omega-3 fatty acids and flavonoids can also increase BDNF levels.

Environmental enrichment, which involves exposure to complex and stimulating environments, has been shown to increase BDNF expression in the brain significantly. Engaging in mentally stimulating activities, such as learning a new skill or playing a challenging game, has also been shown to increase BDNF levels.

How do I increase my BDNF level?

There are several ways to naturally increase BDNF levels, including:


Engaging in regular exercise, particularly high-intensity aerobic exercise, has been shown to increase BDNF levels significantly. Research has shown that the effects of exercise on BDNF levels can be seen after just one session of exercise. So, start exercising regularly to promote brain health.


Dietary factors such as omega-3 fatty acids and flavonoids can also increase BDNF levels. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish, such as salmon and sardines, flaxseed, and chia seeds. Flavonoids are found in fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, strawberries, and leafy greens.

Mental and Social Stimulation

Exposure to enriched environments, such as mentally stimulating activities like learning a new skill or playing a challenging game, can increase BDNF levels. Being socially active and engaging with others also promotes brain function and may increase BDNF levels.

Supplements and Medications

Several supplements and medications have been shown to increase BDNF levels. These include fish oil supplements, curcumin, and antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). However, it’s essential to talk to your doctor before starting any new supplement or medication.

What does BDNF do in depression?

Depression is a prevalent mental health disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities. Research has shown that BDNF levels are reduced in people with depression. This reduction in BDNF levels may impair the growth of new neurons and synapses, leading to depression.

Several studies have found that antidepressants such as SSRIs increase BDNF levels. This increase in BDNF levels may be a crucial factor in their effectiveness in treating depression. Restoring BDNF function may be a viable treatment option for depression and other mood disorders.


BDNF is a vital protein that plays a significant role in brain development, growth, and maintenance. It regulates neuronal growth and survival, synaptic plasticity, and numerous neurological functions. Increasing BDNF levels through exercise, diet, and environmental enrichment may promote brain function and help prevent neurological disorders. In conclusion, incorporating activities that promote BDNF release in our daily routines can have long-term benefits for our brain health.

So start exercising, eating healthily, and challenging your brain to boost your BDNF levels naturally!