Exposure to antidepressants during pregnancy and the first weeks of life can alter sensory processing well into adulthood, according to research in mice recently published in eNeuro.
Physicians are increasingly prescribing a common antidepressant to their pregnant patients, even though the effect on the fetus isn't fully known. A working theory of depression implicates the neurotransmitter serotonin because many depressed patients experience relief when prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Whatever its role in depression, serotonin is critical for healthy brain development and function.
While previous research has shown changes in behavior and brain structure with prenatal and early life exposure to SSRIs, Rahn et al. explored changes in brain activity. After exposing mice to the SSRI fluoxetine during gestation and the first two weeks after birth, the team deployed optical imaging to examine the mouse brains exposed to fluoxetine and compare them to control mice. In the resting state, the brains of both sets of mice were nearly identical. When their front paws were stimulated, the fluoxetine-exposed mice displayed abnormal brain activity in sensory areas. The effect was observed during adulthood in mice, suggesting this developmental exposure to SSRIs causes long-term changes to sensory processing.
Manuscript title: Maternal Fluoxetine Exposure Alters Cortical Hemodynamic and Calcium Response of Offspring to Somatosensory Stimuli
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eNeuro is an online, open-access journal published by the Society for Neuroscience. Established in 2014, eNeuro publishes a wide variety of content, including research articles, short reports, reviews, commentaries and opinions.
About The Society for Neuroscience
The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.