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Brain and Mental Performance

Antidepressant May Offset Shrinking of the Brain

17 years ago

2348  0
Posted on Sep 25, 2002, 1 p.m. By Bill Freeman

Severe depression can make part of the brain called the hippocampus shrink by as much as 20%, although scientists are unclear as to why this should happen and what can be done to prevent or reverse the process. However, results of a recent study on primates' brains has found that an antidepressant drug commonly used in Europe can actually prevent the brain from shrinking - thus prompting calls for research to see if the drug may have a similar effect upon humans.

Severe depression can make part of the brain called the hippocampus shrink by as much as 20%, although scientists are unclear as to why this should happen and what can be done to prevent or reverse the process. However, results of a recent study on primates' brains has found that an antidepressant drug commonly used in Europe can actually prevent the brain from shrinking - thus prompting calls for research to see if the drug may have a similar effect upon humans. Scientists found that depressed shrews exhibited abnormal brain chemical levels, a 33% decrease in new cell growth, and a 7% drop in hippocampal volume. However, when the animals were given the antidepressant tianeptine concentrations of brain chemicals returned to normal, cell growth restarted, and most surprisingly the hippocampus returned to its normal pre-depression size. Study leader Eberhard Fuchs concluded that the study "suggests that hippocampal volume loss in depressed humans could possibly be prevented by antidepressants."

SOURCE/REFERENCE: Reported by www.ap.org on the 2nd October 2001

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