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Home > Research Articles > How the brain responds to antidepressants


Sunday, May 19, 2002

How the brain responds to antidepressants Susan Aldridge, PhD Patients who respond to an antidepressant show distinct alterations in brain activity, say researchers. It's sometimes said that there is little difference between antidepressants and placebo as far as therapeutic effects are concerned. In the placebo response, the patient gets benefit, even though their treatment has no active ingredient. However, a study by researchers at the University of Texas suggests that long-lasting antidepressant response - the type that makes a real difference in depression - is not 'merely' a placebo effect. In a group of 17 men, hospitalised with depression, one group took the antidepressant fluoxetine, the other a placebo. Four responders in each group were studied by positron emission tomography (PET), an imaging technology that measures brain activity in real time. The long-term responders to fluoxetine had clear changes in activity in the lower areas of the brain, around the brain stem. These were not seen in other patients, and seem to be the hallmark of a genuine healing of depression. Source American Journal of Psychiatry May 2002