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Difficulties in mother-child interaction are commonly observed in the context of postnatal depression. These difficulties may result in part from the negative cognitive bias present in depression, which may in turn lead to biased negative perceptions of the infant: in particular, these biases encompass the negative appraisal of facial expressions. Given the important role of early mother-child interactions in child development it is vital to investigate potential interventions that might be beneficial in ameliorating the negative cognitive bias. This study aimed to examine the effects of two different antidepressants (reboxetine and citalopram) on the appraisal of infant facial expressions of emotion using a faces rating task, and on attention to infant emotion using an attentional probe. Thirty-nine volunteers were randomly assigned to a double-blind 7-day intervention with either placebo, citalopram or reboxetine. There were significant positive effects on the appraisal of facial expressions; participants assigned to the placebo group rated positive faces less positively than those either in the citalopram or in the reboxetine groups. However, there was no evidence that these drugs had an effect on attentional vigilance. If antidepressants are able to help a mother to perceive her infant's facial expressions as more positive, this may lead to more positive interactions, thereby potentially mitigating the negative effects of depression on infant development. These findings should be treated with caution until replicated in larger and clinical samples.

Original publication




Journal article


J Psychopharmacol

Publication Date





670 - 676


Attention, Citalopram, Depression, Postpartum, Double-Blind Method, Emotions, Facial Expression, Female, Humans, Male, Morpholines, Mother-Child Relations, Reboxetine, Young Adult