Future experiments will try to determine whether the same treatment will have a similar effect on brain cells governing functions other than vision, Vetencourt said.
Prozac is one of the antidepressant drugs listed as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), so called because they block the activity of serotonin, a molecule that transmits signals between brain cells. There are a number of other chemical families of antidepressant drugs, also described by their activity affecting brain chemistry -- MAO inhibitors, for example.
"There have been discussions about the theory that a cause of depression is lack of growth in the brain," said Dr. Julio Licinio, chairman of psychiatry at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. "It used to be thought that no change could occur in the adult brain. New research has shown that there can be new growth in the brain, so the theory is that depression is caused by lack of new growth."
The new study "supports that theory in a very interesting way," Licinio said. "It both shows a potential new treatment for depression and also further supports the idea that antidepressants act because they promote growth in the brain."
And what applies to Prozac probably is true of other SSRIs and of antidepressants in general, he said. "There have been a lot of other papers showing that other antidepressants have the same property of growth in the brain," Licinio said.
You can learn more about antidepressants from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: Jose Fernando Maya Vetencourt, Ph.D., researcher, neurobiology, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, Italy; Julio Licinio, M.D., chairman, psychiatry, Unversity of Miami Miller School of Medicine; April
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