Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Do Antidepressants Impair the Ability to Extinguish Fear?

An interesting new report of animal research published in Biological Psychiatry suggests that common antidepressant medications may impair a form of learning that is important clinically. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, commonly called SSRIs, are a class of antidepressant widely used to treat depression, as well as a range of anxiety disorders, but the effects of these drugs on learning and memory are poorly understood. In a previous study, Nesha Burghardt, then a graduate student at New York University, and her colleagues demonstrated that long-term SSRI treatment impairs fear conditioning in rats. As a follow-up, they have now tested the effects of antidepressant treatment on extinction learning in rats using auditory fear conditioning, a model of fear learning that involves the amygdala. The amygdala is a region of the brain vitally important for processing memory and emotion. They found that long-term, but not short-term, SSRI treatment impairs extinction learning, which is the ability to learn that a conditioned stimulus no longer predicts an aversive event. more

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