Perinatal exposure to antidepressants linked to changes in sensory processing

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Among pregnant women, the use of common antidepressants, like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), increased over the past few decades.

Although previous research have provided a confined understanding of changes in behavior and brain structure during prenatal and early life exposure to SSRIs, a new study, conducted on rodents, suggests exposure to antidepressants during pregnancy and the first weeks of life could lead to altered sensory processing later in adulthood. The findings were published in eNeuro.

Fluoxetine, an antidepressant of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor class, was administered to rodents to examine changes in brain activity during gestation and the first two weeks after birth.

By theory, SSRIs, like fluoxetine, involves the neurotransmitter serotonin as key to the treatment of depression.

“Epidemiological studies have found an increased incidence of neurodevelopmental disorders in populations prenatally exposed to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs),” the findings state.

“Optical imaging provides a minimally invasive way to determine if perinatal SSRI exposure has long-term effects on cortical function. Herein we probed the functional neuroimaging effects of perinatal SSRI exposure in a fluoxetine-exposed (FLX) mouse model.”

In a resting state, optical imaging examination of the rodents’ brains determined fluoxetine induced abnormal brain activity in sensory areas.

“These results suggest a global loss of response signal amplitude in FLX versus controls,” the findings determined. “These findings indicate that perinatal SSRI exposure has long-term consequences on somatosensory cortical responses.”