Research Article| Volume 66, 104064, October 2022

Is BDNF related to spatial-temporal gait parameters in people with multiple sclerosis? An observational study

  • Felipe Balistieri Santinelli
    Corresponding author: Felipe Balistieri Santinelli, MS, REVAL Research Center, Agoralaan gebouw A, 3590 Diepenbeek, Belgium.
    REVAL Rehabilitation Research Center, Faculty of Rehabilitation Sciences, Hasselt University, Hasselt, Belgium

    São Paulo State University (Unesp), School of Sciences, Graduate Program in Movement Sciences, Department of Physical Education, Human Movement Research Laboratory (MOVI-LAB), Bauru, SP, Brazil
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  • Emerson Sebastião
    Northern Illinois University, Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, United States
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  • Lucas Simieli
    São Paulo State University (Unesp), School of Sciences, Graduate Program in Movement Sciences, Department of Physical Education, Human Movement Research Laboratory (MOVI-LAB), Bauru, SP, Brazil
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  • Barbara Moura Antunes
    São Paulo State University (Unesp), School of Sciences, Department of Physical Education, Laboratory of Physiology and Sport Performance (LAFIDE), Bauru, SP, Brazil

    Facultad de Deportes Campus Ensenada, Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, México
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  • Luiz Henrique Palucci Vieira
    São Paulo State University (Unesp), School of Sciences, Graduate Program in Movement Sciences, Department of Physical Education, Human Movement Research Laboratory (MOVI-LAB), Bauru, SP, Brazil
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  • Alon Kalron
    Tel-Aviv University, Department of Physical Therapy, School of Health Professions, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, and Sagol School of Neuroscience, Tel-Aviv, Israel
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  • Fabio Augusto Barbieri
    São Paulo State University (Unesp), School of Sciences, Graduate Program in Movement Sciences, Department of Physical Education, Human Movement Research Laboratory (MOVI-LAB), Bauru, SP, Brazil
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      • pwMS presented lower BDNF serum concentration than healthy people.
      • BDNF serum concentration was not related to clinical/gait outcomes in pwMS and healthy people.
      • BDNF does not play an essential role in gait parameters.



      It has been suggested that the protein Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) plays a neuroprotective role in people with multiple sclerosis (pwMS). Also, BDNF seems to play a role in cognition performance. In the same line, gait in pwMS requires a higher cognitive resource, mainly during complex walking. Thus, maybe BDNF could be related to gait in pwMS.


      To investigate the relationship between BDNF and gait spatial-temporal parameters during unobstructed and obstructed conditions and the Timed Up and Go (TUG) in pwMS and healthy controls (HC).


      The study included 20 pwMS (11F/9M, 33.1±7.5 years, Expanded Disability Status Scale- EDSS 2.2±1.2) and 18 HC (13F/5M, 35.5±5.9 years). Both groups performed 20 gait attempts in two conditions: unobstructed walking (10 trials) and avoiding an obstacle. The obstacle was 15 cm in height and made of foam material. The BDNF serum concentration was collected with participants in fasting and completed before the clinical, gait, and mobility assessments. Clinical variables included the Symbol Digit Modality Test (SDMT), the Fatigue Severity Scale (FSS), and the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ- short version). Associations between BDNF and spatial-temporal gait parameters, clinical variables, and TUG were determined by Pearson/Spearman correlations with Bonferroni's correction being applied (p<0.0013). Gait was compared by a two-way, repeated-measures ANOVA (group and condition) to characterize our cohort.


      Reduced BDNF was observed for pwMS (41.66±4.45 ng/ml) in comparison with HC (61.67±7.07, p<0.001). However, although some correlations presented a moderate correlation between BDNF with gait variables, the correlations didn't reach a significant p-value after Bonferroni's correction. Lastly, pwMS presented shorter step length and slower step velocity for both gait conditions, with more evidence for obstacle conditions. Only pwMS changed gait behavior from unobstructed walking to obstacle avoidance conditions (i.e., reduced step length and velocity and increased step duration).


      BDNF is not related to either clinical (i.e., EDSS, SDMT, FSS, or IPAQ) or gait parameters in pwMS and HC, even in a condition involving higher cognitive demand. These results may suggest that BDNF does not play a role in these parameters' performance.



      BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor), pwMS (People with Multiple Sclerosis), MS (Multiple Sclerosis), CNS (Central Nervous System), EDSS (expanded disability status scale), TUG (Timed up and Go), SDMT (Symbol digit modality test), FSS (Fatigue Severity Scale), IPAQ (International Physical Activity Questionnaire), METs (Metabolic Equivalent of Task units), ELISA (Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay), MMSE (Mini-Mental State Exam), PDDS (Patient Determined Disease Steps)
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