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Keywords:

  • bipolar disorder;
  • brain-derived neurotrophic factor;
  • gene polymorphism;
  • N-back test;
  • schizophrenia;
  • Wisconsin Card Sorting Test

Abstract  The measures of prefrontal cognition have been used as endophenotype in molecular-genetic studies. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) has been implicated in cognitive functions and in the pathogenesis of major psychoses. This study investigates the relationship between Val66Met polymorphisms of the BDNF gene and prefrontal cognitive function in 129 patients with schizophrenia and 111 patients with bipolar mood disorder. Cognitive tests included the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST), with such domains as number of perseverative errors, non-perseverative errors, completed corrected categories, conceptual level responses, and set to the first category, and the N-back test, where mean reaction time and percent of correct reactions were measured. Genotyping for Val66Met BDNF polymorphism was done by polymerase chain reaction method. In schizophrenia, no relationship between Val66Met polymorphism of the BDNF gene and the results of the WCST was observed. Patients with Val/Val genotype had a higher percentage of correct reactions in the N-back test than those with the remaining genotypes. Bipolar patients with Val/Val genotype obtained significantly better results on three of five domains of the WCST. No relationship between BDNF polymorphism and the results of the N-back test was found in this group. A limitation to the results could be variable psychopathological state and medication during cognitive testing and lack of Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium in schizophrenia group. Val66Met polymorphism of the BDNF gene may be associated with cognitive performance on the WCST in bipolar mood disorder but not in schizophrenia. An association of this polymorphism with performance on the N-back test in schizophrenia and not in bipolar illness may suggest that in schizophrenia, the BDNF system may be connected with early phases of information processing.