AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 27, Number 1, 2018


Common Antidepressant May Change Brain Structures Differently in Depressed and Non-depressed Individuals

According to a new study conducted by researchers from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, a commonly prescribed antidepressant may alter brain structures in depressed and non-depressed individuals in different ways. The study — conducted in nonhuman primates with brain structures and functions similar to those of humans — found that the antidepressant sertraline, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) marketed as Zoloft, significantly increased the volume of one brain region in depressed subjects but decreased the volume of two brain areas in non-depressed subjects. In the study, 41 middle-aged female monkeys were fed a diet formulated to replicate that consumed by many Americans for 18 months, during which time depressive behavior in the animals was recorded. Female monkeys were chosen for this study because depression is nearly twice as common in women as men, and the use of antidepressants is most common in women ages 40 to 59. MRI images taken at the end of the study revealed that in depressed subjects, the drug significantly increased the volume of one region of the brain (the anterior cingulate cortex) while decreasing the volume of this same region and the hippocampus in non-depressed subjects. In humans, the researchers explained, volume differences in neural structures have been noted in depressed and non-depressed individuals, with the most commonly reported differences being smaller volumes of the cingulate cortex and hippocampus in depressed people. To read more about this study, click here.

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