How do antidepressants affect the brain?

Then the monkeys were divided into two groups according to two parameters: the same body weight and manifestations of depressive behavior. During the next 18 months, one of the groups (21 monkeys) received an antidepressant sertraline daily (sold under the names Zoloft, Stimuloton, and Asentra ...) in approximately the same doses that people take. Another group (20 monkeys) received a placebo.

At the end of this period, the results of magnetic resonance imaging showed that in monkeys with depression, as a result of taking the drug, the volume of the brain region called the anterior cingulate cortex increased significantly. And in monkeys without depression, taking the drug, the volume of the anterior cingulate cortex, as well as another area - the hippocampus - decreased. Both these areas have many connections with other parts of the brain, they play an important role for memory, learning, navigation in space, will, motivation and emotions. They also play a role in the development of depressive disorders.

Studies have shown that in people who suffer and do not suffer from depression, there are differences in the volumes of different areas of the brain. In patients with depression, the volume of the cingulate cortex and hippocampus is often reduced.It is suggested that antidepressants can have a therapeutic effect, stimulating the growth of neurons and the formation of neural connections in these areas of the brain.

For more information, see S. Willard et al. "Long term sertraline effects on neural structures in depressed and nondepressed adult female nonhuman primates", Neuropharmacology, vol. 99, December 2015.

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Text: Nikolay Protsenko
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