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Antidepressants After Stroke May Boost Mental Ability
Date:2/1/2010

Patients taking Lexapro had better thinking, learning and memory skills after 12 weeks of treatment, researchers report

MONDAY, Feb. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Taking antidepressants after a stroke may help repair the damaged brain and improve mental functioning, a new study suggests.

Little has been shown to help the brain restore cognitive abilities, such as thinking, learning and memory, after initial stroke treatment. But a University of Iowa study found that the antidepressant escitalopram (Lexapro), which is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), may do just that. The researchers speculate that it might help produce new brain cells.

"Common antidepressants might have effects on brain structure and function that go beyond their effect to relieve depression," said lead researcher Dr. Ricardo E. Jorge, an associate professor of psychiatry.

"Although the results of this study are promising, they are preliminary in nature and should not be taken as an indication to change current guidelines of stroke treatment," he said.

The report was published in the February issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

For the study, Jorge's team studied 129 stroke patients with no symptoms of depression. Within three months of their stroke, patients were randomly assigned to take either Lexapro or a placebo daily or participate in a problem-solving therapy program designed for people with depression.

After 12 weeks, patients taking Lexapro scored higher on tests for thinking, learning and memory as well as tests measuring verbal and visual memory, compared with those taking a placebo or receiving problem-solving therapy.

More important, these changes in cognitive ability for patients taking Lexapro improved their ability to handle activities in daily life, Jorge's group found.

"It is important to emphasize that the observed changes in cognition were independent of
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