Recent research on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) indicates that taking these antidepressants during pregnancy may increase autism risk in the developing child. Another recent study shows that these same SSRIs, which are regularly used to treat depression and anxiety, may change brain function. SSRIs increase the amount of serotonin in the brain, which might cause long terms changes impeding brain function. While SSRIs generally create positive effects in the individuals to whom they are prescribed, and while these benefits can outlast usage, negative side effects can also remain in users after they cease taking SSRIs.
BioMed Central’s open access journal Molecular Brain recently published a study on the physiological changes that may occur in the brain as a result of using SSRIs. The study closely investigated SSRI treatment’s relationship with the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is involved in long-term memory and spatial awareness. Throughout life, neurons in the hippocampus can alter their activity and strengthen connections. This pliability is referred to as “plasticity.” Abnormal activity in the hippocampus can result in memory loss and disorientation, which are traditional symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
The study, conducted by researchers from the Department of Pharmacology, Nippon Medical School, demonstrated that treating adult mice with a generic version of Prozac, fluoxetine, caused the mice’s granule cells to change. These cells are one of the main types of neuronal cells in the hippocampus. The chronic use of fluoxetine in these mice also altered the connections between granule cells and other neuronal cells. The new granule cells “appeared to undergo serotonin-dependent ‘dematuration’, which increased their activity and reversed adult-type plasticity into an immature state” (Science Daily). Decrease in brain plasticity generally correlates to decreased cognitive processing speed.
Brainjogging strengthens neural connections in the brain and is a viable alternative for treatment of anxiety and depression. Anxiety and depression are often experienced in individuals with learning disabilities; Brainjogging treats both the learning disability and the emotional struggles that often accompany it.