Babies born to mothers who took
antidepressants early in their
pregnancy are approximately three
times more likely to develop autism.

 
   
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Celexa Long-term Effects Study


A study first published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology in January 2006, shows the means by which prenatal exposure to SSRI antidepressants may cause permanent changes in brain development that affect brain function and behavior into adulthood.

Researchers at the University of Mississippi Medical Center looked at both the behavioral and neurological consequences of neonatal exposure of SSRI antidepressants in rats.

After reviewing the evidence of mother rats taking SSRI antidepressants and exposing their fetuses to significant doses of the drugs, the authors noted that, "the development of maladaptive behaviors after early life exposure to antidepressants is seen in animals and humans alike." Previous studies with rodents, they stated, had shown that early exposure to antidepressants "can result in persistent abnormalities in adult behavior," and they hypothesized that these abnormalities are caused by a disruption in the maturation of the animals’ nervous systems due to SSRI exposure.

From the age of 8 days to the age of 21 days, newborn rats were injected with the SSRI antidepressant citalopram (Celexa), the tricyclic antidepressant clomipramine (Anafranil), or (as a control) saline. The citalopram-injected rats showed increased locomotor activity and lower sexual activity. The exposure also produced what the authors referred to as "profound" changes in the rodents' brain development, including reductions in a key enzyme involved in the synthesis of the neurotransmitter serotonin and effects on the cortex "that persist into adulthood."

According to the researchers, their data "argue that exposure to SSRIs at an early age can disrupt the normal maturation of the serotonin system" during a critical period in brain development and "suggest that in utero [in the uterus; before birth], exposure to SSRIs may have unforeseen long-term neurobehavioral consequences." Similar disruption of serotonin functioning in mice has produced anxiety and depression-like behaviors as well as exaggerated responses to environmental stress.



Summary Information

Title
Neonatal Antidepressant Exposure has Lasting Effects on Behavior and Serotonin Circuitry

Authors
Dorota Maciag, Department of Psychiatry & Human Behavior, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, MS, USA; Kimberly L Simpson, Department of Anatomy, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, MS, USA

Journal
Neuropsychopharmacology, Vol. 31, Issue 1, pp. 47-57, January 2006

Funding
This publication was supported in part by research funds from the Center of Psychiatric Neuroscience at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, which is supported by NIH Grant Number RR-P20 RR17701 from the Institutional Developmental Award (IDeA) Program of the National Center for Research Resources.


Additional Studies Linking Antidepressants to Autism

 

 


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