Associations between social relationship measures, serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor, and risk of stroke and dementia

Joel Salinas, Alexa Beiser, Jayandra J. Himali, Claudia L. Satizabal, Hugo J. Aparicio, Galit Weinstein, Farrah J. Mateen, Lisa F. Berkman, Jonathan Rosand, Sudha Seshadri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction Mechanisms underlying social determinants of stroke and dementia are unclear and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) may contribute as a molecular link. Methods Using the Framingham Study, we examined social relationship measures as predictors of higher serum BDNF level and cumulative incidence of stroke and dementia. Results Among 3294 participants, controlling for age and sex, isolation trended with lower BDNF (odds ratio = 0.69 [0.47–1.00]). Participants with more companionship had reduced risk for stroke (hazard ratio [HR] = 0.59 [0.41–0.83]) and dementia (HR = 0.67 [0.49–0.92]). Greater emotional support was associated with higher BDNF (odds ratio = 1.27 [1.04–1.54]), reduced dementia risk (HR = 0.69 [0.51–0.94], and among smokers, reduced stroke risk (HR = 0.23 [0.10–0.57]). Associations persisted after additional adjustments. BDNF partly mediated the total effect between emotional support and dementia risk. Conclusions Availability of social support appears to be associated with increased BDNF levels and, in certain subsets, reduce risk of subsequent dementia and stroke, thus warranting study of these pathways to understand their role in neuroprotection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-237
Number of pages9
JournalAlzheimer's and Dementia: Translational Research and Clinical Interventions
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Boston University School of Medicine and Massachusetts General Hospital; contracts from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [N01-HC 25195, HHSN268201500001I]; and by grants from the National Institute for Neurologic Disease and Stroke [NS017950, T32NS048005] and National Institute on Aging [AG031287-funded BDNF assays, AG008122, AG033193].

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Authors


  • Brain-derived neurotrophic factor
  • Cohort studies
  • Dementia
  • Epidemiology
  • Social networks
  • Social relationships
  • Social support
  • Stroke

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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