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title pic Study Asks: “Can Brain Remember Past Antidepressant Reaction?”

Posted by Deborah Pujoue on April 16, 2012

Study Asks: “Can Brain Remember Past Antidepressant Reaction?

According to information from a new study, the brain’s past recollections of antidepressant use may be a deciding factor in how the brain reacts to antidepressant use now. This new study asks, “Can the brain remember past antidepressant reactions?”

Since depression is an often-recurring condition that pops in and out of a person’s lifetime, many patients can go in and out of taking various antidepressant medications like Prozac, Zoloft and Celexa. With this being the case, the researchers in this study wanted to know if it was possible for the brain to adapt a “learned” reaction to medication based on previous ones. It is certainly a clever idea that bears looking into since right now, the relationship between previous depression treatments and the brain’s reaction to following treatments hasn’t been fully looked into. The study’s results were published online in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology.

For this study, the researchers tracked the shadows of older treatments by using a placebo. Psychologist Dr. Aimee Hunter worked alongside UCLA colleagues to show that the placebo — which was disguised as an antidepressant — can “trick the brain into responding in the same manner as the actual medication.”

The study showed that the subjects that had never taken an antidepressant treatment before showed a “large increases in prefrontal brain activity during placebo treatment. But those who had used antidepressant medication in the past showed slight decreases in prefrontal activity — brain changes that were indistinguishable from those produced by the actual drug.”

What that means is that it’s possible that the brain actually shows signs of remembering previous treatments and may actually respond to future treatments based on that memory. This research has the potential to be very significant in helping doctors know how best to treat patients with depression. This is particularly true in the case of SSRI medications like Prozac, Zoloft and Celexa, which have all been proven to have serious side effects including birth defects to babies exposed to the drug in-utero. Some of those side effects include PPHN, cleft palate and neural tube defects.

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