Antidepressants alter human brain structure: study

A study in Austria has recently discovered that antidepressants can alter the structure of the human brain, particuliarly changing the grey and white matter to be more plastic.

According to the story, Patients with the best response to the treatment showed increased signs of neuron connectivity.

Lead author of the study, Professor Jonathan Repple in a media release, said the discovery went contrary to previous conceptions about antidepressants.

Moreover, he said scans of the patients revealed that “there are no time effects in healthy controls supports our findings that we see something that is related to the disease and more importantly the treatment of this disease”.

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The changes to brain structure took place over six weeks with rapid speed, puzzling researchers on how the changes were taking place and why there were different changes with different treatments. Changes in the brain occurred naturally in children due to physical development and reorganisation, but changes were more rigid in adults, until recent discoveries.

According to Dr Eric Ruhe from Rabdoud University Medical Center, “The results align very much with our current belief that the brain has much more flexibility in adaptation over (even short) time than was previously thought. Indeed a major idea of what treatment of depression (and other psychiatric illnesses) invoke is plastic changes over time. This has been proposed as a common mechanism for antidepressants, psychotherapy and electroconvulsive therapy”.

However, she also drew the conclusion that the observed changes over time in the study couldn’t be associated with a form of treatment.

Ruhe expects further elaborate studies to be conducted for independent study while bridging the gap between neuroscience and evidence-based patient care.

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