Antidepressants – effects on emotional processing and brain plasticity
Depression is the most common psychiatric illness. Studies indicate that serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can improve depression.
While quite a bit is known about the neurochemical changes that SSRIs produce in the brain, it is much less clear how these changes are translated into clinical improvements.
Two main groups of theories have been proposed: On one hand there are studies that show that antidepressant change how emotional stimuli are processed. Depressed patients show biases in attention and memory toward negative information and negative social cues, which are believed to play a central role in the maintenance of negative thoughts, beliefs and mood (Beck, 1976). Recent studies, however, suggest that these negative biases can be reversed following a singledose antidepressant treatment in healthy people and in depressed patients (Harmer, 2008).
On the other hand, other studies have suggested that antidepressants change brain plasticity, which is related to how quickly people can learn.
In our research we are interested in finding out how these two effects of antidepressants relate and in how far each one of them is important for clinical improvement.
Researchers: Jacqueline Scholl, Catherine Harmer