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Antidepressant linked to developmental brain abnormalities in rodents
Date:10/24/2011

A study by researchers at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco shows that rats given a popularly prescribed antidepressant during development exhibit brain abnormalities and behaviors characteristic of autism spectrum disorders.

The findings suggest that taking a certain class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors SSRIs during pregnancy might be one factor contributing to a dramatic rise in these developmental disorders in children.

"We saw behaviors in the treated rats and neurological problems that indicate their brains are not properly conducting and processing information," said Dr. Rick C.S. Lin, professor of neurobiology and anatomical sciences at UMMC and principal investigator on the study.

"However, based on this study alone it would be premature to conclude that a pregnant mother should stop taking SSRIs. A pregnant mother may do more harm to her baby through untreated depression than by taking prescribed SSRIs. This study is a starting point and a lot more research needs to be done."

The study appears online Oct. 24, 2011 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences at www.pnas.org.

The researchers treated more than 200 rats with the SSRI citalopram during key stages of brain development. Rats are born at an earlier developmental stage than humans, equivalent to the end of the sixth month of fetal development in humans.

Most rats received treatment for two weeks, beginning eight days post birth, a neurodevelopment period equivalent to the third trimester and early infancy in humans.

In contrast with control-group rats, the investigators found the treated populations were uninterested in play when young and displayed poor social behaviors as adults. The treated rats also showed abnormal responses to changes in their environment. For example, the
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Contact: Jennifer O'Brien
jennifer.obrien@ucsf.edu
415-502-6397
University of California - San Francisco
Source:Eurekalert

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