A research investigation on 22 people showed that a single dose of an anti-depressant can result in change in the brain’s architecture within hours.
Medications which are taken for depression such as SSRIs, (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) include Prozac, Lexapro, Celexa, Paxil and Zoloft.
It is estimated that more than 1 in 10 adults suffer with depression. SSRIs regulate the availability of a chemical transmitter in the brain, serotonin, by blocking the way it is reabsorbed to boost the mood of the person under depression.
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany, used a magnetic resonance imaging machine to compare connections between those who took SSRIs and those who did not.
The brains of the participants were scanned again after giving SSRI and researchers found major alteration in the connectivity architecture in the brain mainly within thalamus and the cerebellum within three hours. The oxygenation of blood flow in the brain were measured in them.
Then the researchers developed a 3-D model of each individual’s brain by measuring and recording the number of connections between small blocks known as voxels and the resulting change in these specific connections after given a single dose of escitalopram (Lexapro).
It contradicted the old belief about antidepressants taking from a few days to a few months to show changes in people suffering from depression.
Julia Sacher from Max Planck Institute of Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences said, “We were not expecting the SSRI to have such a prominent effect on such a short timescale or for the resulting signal to encompass the entire brain.”
“However, much work remains before we understand how different antidepressants affect the brains of people with and without depression, not only after the first dose, but also over the longer term. The hope that we have for future studies is to uncover distinct differences in brain connectivity between depression patients who ultimately respond to an antidepressant and those who do,” Julia Sacher , who was also the lead author of the study concluded.
“In a perfect world, you would look not only at SSRIs, but all sorts of medications and non-pharmacological interventions,” Sacher said. “That would really help to tailor individual therapy for someone in the midst of a depressive episode.”
The new study, published in the journal Current Biology could aid in predicting who would be able to derive maximum benefit from these medications.
The new study has the drawback of conducting the study on healthy people as according to researchers the brain pattern of depressed people are far different from healthy people.
“The findings indicate that compared to subjects who were administered a placebo, the subjects receiving the SSRI exhibited a considerable change in the degree different brain regions (neural networks) communicate,” said Paul J. Mattis, PhD., Chief of Adult Neuropsychology at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, NY.
“Although not directly relevant to patients with depression, the study provides a small building block in the substantial task of understanding the brains of patients with depression and other disorders in which serotonin is important,” added Mattis.