BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor): Benefits, Dosing, Where To Buy, And More!

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Key Information

BDNF is a brain growth factor

BDNF is a protein that supports the growth and maintenance of neurons in the brain.

BDNF enhances memory and learning

BDNF promotes synaptogenesis and synaptic plasticity, which are essential for storing new information in the brain.

BDNF regulates energy and mood

BDNF helps regulate appetite, glucose metabolism, and insulin sensitivity. It also modulates mood and emotion.

BDNF can be boosted by nootropics:

BDNF cannot be taken directly, but certain nootropic supplements may increase its production. Exercise, meditation, and sleep also help.

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What is BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor)?

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Overview of BDNF

Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) is a protein encoded by the BDNF gene and belongs to the neurotrophin family of growth factors. It plays a crucial role in supporting the survival of existing neurons while encouraging the growth and differentiation of new neurons and synapses. BDNF is expressed in regions vital to learning, memory, and higher thinking, such as the hippocampus, cortex, and basal forebrain. It is also found in the retina, motor neurons, kidneys, and prostate.

BDNF’s Role in the Brain

BDNF regulates neuroplasticity, enabling neurons to adapt and optimize neural networks [1]. It activates the TrkB (tropomyosin receptor kinase B) and p75 receptors, influencing learning, memory, and cognitive function [2].

Learning and Memory

BDNF is critical for long-term memory formation and enables long-term potentiation (LTP) in the hippocampus. It promotes neuronal survival and synaptic plasticity [3].

Mood Regulation

Low BDNF levels are linked to depression and anxiety disorders [4]. Antidepressants may work by increasing BDNF signaling [5].

Learn More: Best Nootropics For Depression

BDNF and Aging

BDNF levels naturally decline with age, which is associated with age-related cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s [6].

Factors That Influence BDNF Levels

Lifestyle Factors

  • Exercise (aerobic and resistance training) [7]
  • Sleep quality and quantity
  • Stress levels
  • Sunlight exposure [8]
  • Cognitive stimulation and learning new skills

Dietary Factors

  • Calorie restriction and intermittent fasting [9]
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA) [10]
  • Polyphenols (e.g., curcumin, resveratrol, green tea catechins)
  • Prebiotics and resistant starch

Supplements and Nootropics That Increase BDNF

  • Lion’s Mane Mushroom [11]
  • Bacopa Monnieri [12]
  • Rhodiola Rosea [13]
  • L-Theanine [14]
  • Zinc [15]
  • Magnesium Threonate [16]
  • N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) [17]
  • 7,8-Dihydroxyflavone [18]
Supplement/NootropicMechanism of ActionDosage
Lion’s ManeStimulates NGF and BDNF production500-3000 mg/day
Bacopa MonnieriUpregulates BDNF and increases dendrite branching300-450 mg/day
Rhodiola RoseaIncreases BDNF levels in the hippocampus100-400 mg/day
L-TheanineIncreases BDNF expression and attenuates stress-induced decrease100-400 mg/day

Learn More: Best BDNF Supplements

BDNF and Mental Health Disorders


Reduced BDNF levels are observed in depressed patients [19]. Antidepressants may work by increasing BDNF [20].

Anxiety Disorders

Lower BDNF levels are associated with anxiety [21]. The BDNF Val66Met polymorphism is linked to an increased risk of anxiety disorders [22].

Learn More: Best Nootropics For Anxiety

Neurodegenerative Diseases

Reduced BDNF signaling is implicated in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s diseases [23]. BDNF supplementation may slow cognitive decline and neurodegeneration [24].

BDNF and Neuroplasticity

Synaptic Plasticity

BDNF is essential for long-term potentiation (LTP) and synaptic plasticity [25]. It regulates dendritic spine density and morphology [26].


BDNF promotes the survival and differentiation of new neurons in the hippocampus [27]. It enhances neurogenesis in response to exercise and environmental enrichment [28].

BDNF Research and Future Directions

Current Research

Researchers are investigating BDNF’s role in various neurological and psychiatric disorders while exploring BDNF-mimetic drugs and gene therapy approaches [29].

Challenges and Limitations

  • Complexity of BDNF signaling and regulation
  • Potential side effects of BDNF-targeting therapies
  • Difficulty in delivering BDNF to the brain

FAQ about BDNF

How can I naturally increase BDNF levels?

Some natural ways to boost BDNF include regular exercise, adequate sleep, stress reduction, sunlight exposure, and a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and polyphenols.

Are there any supplements that can increase BDNF?

Yes, several supplements and nootropics have been shown to increase BDNF levels, such as Lion’s Mane mushroom, Bacopa Monnieri, Rhodiola Rosea, and L-Theanine.

Can low BDNF levels lead to depression?

Studies have found that individuals with depression often have lower levels of BDNF in their brains. Increasing BDNF signaling may be one of the mechanisms by which antidepressants work.

Does BDNF decline with age?

Yes, BDNF levels naturally decline as we age, which may contribute to age-related cognitive decline and increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases.

Where to Buy BDNF Supplements

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Erik Abramowitz is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP), Naturopathic Doctoral student, health coach, and father. He is the primary content creator for and the host of the Holistic Nootropics Podcast.