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Does the brain 'remember' antidepressants?
Date:3/26/2012

drew Leuchter, a professor of psychiatry and director of the Laboratory of Brain, Behavior and Pharmacology at UCLA's Semel Institute. The EEG measure, recorded from scalp electrodes, is linked to blood flow in the cerebral cortex, which suggests the level of brain activity.

The antidepressant medication given during the study appeared to produce slight decreases in prefrontal brain activity, regardless of whether subjects had received prior antidepressant treatment during their lifetime or not. (A decrease in brain activity is not necessarily a bad thing, the researchers note; with depression, too much activity in the brain can be as bad as too little.)

However, the researchers observed striking differences in the power of placebo, depending on subjects' prior antidepressant use. Subjects who had never been treated with an antidepressant exhibited large increases in prefrontal brain activity during placebo treatment. But those who had used antidepressant medication in the past showed slight decreases in prefrontal activity brain changes that were indistinguishable from those produced by the actual drug.

"The brain's response to the placebo pill seems to depend on what happened previously on whether or not the brain has ever 'seen' antidepressant medication before," said Hunter, who is a member of the placebo research team at the Laboratory of Brain, Behavior and Pharmacology. "If it has seen it before, then the brain's signature 'antidepressant-exposure' response shows up."

According to Hunter, the effect looks conspicuously like a classical conditioning phenomenon, wherein prior exposure to the actual drug may have produced the specific prefrontal brain response and subsequent exposure to the cues surrounding drug administration the relationship with the doctor or nurse, the medical treatment setting, the act of taking a prescribed pill and so forth came to elicit a similar brain response through 'conditioning' or 'a
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Contact: Mark Wheeler
mwheeler@mednet.ucla.edu
310-794-2265
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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