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Serum and plasma brain-derived neurotrophic factor concentration are elevated by systemic but not local passive heating

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posted on 21.01.2022, 13:47 by Takahiro Ogawa, Sven Hoekstra, Yoshi-Ichiro Kamijo, Vicky Goosey-TolfreyVicky Goosey-Tolfrey, Jeremy J. Walsh, Fumihiro Tajima, Christof LeichtChristof Leicht
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) plays a key role in neuronal adaptations. While previous studies suggest that whole-body heating can elevate circulating BDNF concentration, this is not known for local heating protocols. This study investigated the acute effects of whole-body versus local passive heating on serum and plasma BDNF concentration. Using a water-perfused suit, ten recreationally active males underwent three 90 min experimental protocols: heating of the legs with upper-body cooling (LBH), whole-body heating (WBH) and a control condition (CON). Blood samples were collected before, immediately after and 1 h post-heating for the determination of serum and plasma BDNF concentration, platelet count as well as the BDNF release per platelet. Rectal temperature, cardiac output and femoral artery shear rate were assessed at regular intervals. Serum and plasma BDNF concentration were elevated after WBH (serum: 19.1±5.0 to 25.9±11.3 ng/ml, plasma: 2.74±0.9 to 4.58±2.0; p<0.044), but not LBH (serum: 19.1±4.7 to 22.3±4.8 ng/ml, plasma: 3.25±1.13 to 3.39±0.90 ng/ml; p>0.126), when compared with CON (serum: 18.6±6.4 to 16.8±3.4 ng/ml, plasma: 2.49±0.69 to 2.82±0.89 ng/ml); accompanied by an increase in platelet count (p<0.001). However, there was no change in BDNF content per platelet after either condition (p = 0.392). All physiological measures were elevated to a larger extent after WBH compared with LBH (p<0.001), while shear rate and rectal temperature were higher during LBH than CON (p<0.038). In conclusion, WBH but not LBH acutely elevates circulating BDNF concentration. While these findings further support the use of passive heating to elevate BDNF concentration, a larger increase in shear rate, sympathetic activity and/or rectal temperature than found after LBH appears needed to induce an acute BDNF response by passive heating.


National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Leicester Biomedical Research Centre

Kyoten Research Center of Sports for Persons with Impairments.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

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This is an Open Access Article. It is published by Public Library of Science under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence (CC BY 4.0). Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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Mr Sven Hoekstra. Deposit date: 17 November 2021

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