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Recent functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) imaging studies have revealed that subchronic medication with escitalopram leads to significant reduction in both amygdala and medial frontal gyrus reactivity during processing of emotional faces, suggesting that escitalopram may have a distinguishable modulatory effect on neural activation as compared with other serotonin-selective antidepressants. In this fMRI study we aimed to explore whether short-term medication with escitalopram in healthy volunteers is associated with reduced neural response to emotional processing, and whether this effect is predicted by drug plasma concentration. The neural response to fearful and happy faces was measured before and on day 7 of treatment with escitalopram (10mg) in 15 healthy volunteers and compared with those in a control unmedicated group (n=14). Significantly reduced activation to fearful, but not to happy facial expressions was observed in the bilateral amygdala, cingulate and right medial frontal gyrus following escitalopram medication. This effect was not correlated with plasma drug concentration. In accordance with previous data, we showed that escitalopram exerts its rapid direct effect on emotional processing via attenuation of neural activation in pathways involving medial frontal gyrus and amygdala, an effect that seems to be distinguishable from that of other SSRIs.

Original publication




Journal article


J Psychopharmacol

Publication Date





33 - 39


SSRIs, amygdala, emotional processing, escitalopram, fMRI, Adult, Amygdala, Citalopram, Emotions, Facial Expression, Female, Frontal Lobe, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors, Young Adult