Background: Previous studies have demonstrated that nerve growth factor (NGF) participates in the development of stroke and depression. However, the interrelationship between serum NGF and post-stroke depression (PSD) has been poorly understood. Therefore, our aim was to determine whether serum NGF is correlated with the development of depression during the acute stage of stroke.
Methods and Findings: In total, 200 patients with acute ischaemic stroke and 100 healthy controls were recruited, and the serum NGF levels were examined within 24 h after admission. We screened for the existence of symptoms of depression using the 17-item Hamilton Depression Scale at one month after
stroke. Sixty-two patients (31.0%) were diagnosed with PSD at one month following stroke. Serum NGF was significantly higher in stroke patients than in normal controls (9.6 ± 3.1 ng/L vs. 7.2 ± 1.5 ng/L; P<0.001), whereas PSD patients had significantly lower NGF than non-PSD patients (8.2 ± 2.3 ng/L vs.10.2 ± 3.2 ng/L; P<0.001). In multivariate analyses, NGF levels (<7.7 ng/L and >11.1 ng/L) were independently associated with the development of PSD [odds
ratio (OR): 2.53; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.03-6.22, P<0.05 and OR: 0.32; 95% CI: 0.11–0.97, P<0.05, respectively] after adjusting for possible variables.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that lower serum NGF levels might be a risk factor for developing PSD and higher serum levels of NGF might be protective against developing PSD at one month post-stroke.