Letters from the March 8, 2008, issue of Science News

No cure yet

“Growing Up to Prozac: Drug makes new neurons mature faster” (SN: 2/9/08, p. 83) suggests that growth of new brain cells, along with increasing connections, may mediate some of the effect of some SSRIs. Since these new cells would likely persist significantly longer than the drugs themselves, do we see a “cure” after some period of time and, therefore, no need for continued administration of these drugs?

Bob Cogliano
Fort White, Fla

The researchers suggest that, after people stop taking SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), depression symptoms may return because constant application of the drug is necessary to induce growth and aid proper maturation of new neurons. Some people who take SSRIs can eventually stop taking the drugs without a return to depression. However, to be true cures, the drugs must correct the underlying cause. No one has yet shown that depression is caused by a defect in neuron growth and maturation. The defect may be a depression side effect. Growing new brain cells may alleviate symptoms, but it does not address the real cause.—Tina Hesman Saey

Formulating change

I’ve looked at the table for “Wish List: FY ’09 budget proposal ups physical sciences” (SN: 2/9/08, p. 86). No way do I understand where the percent changes come from. A change from $80,192 million to $80,494 million is listed as a 1.6 percent decrease.

David Adams
Garnet Valley, Pa

The numbers are adjusted for inflation, which will erode buying power by the time fiscal year 2009 begins. At the time we wrote the story, the Office of Management and Budget was predicting a 2 percent inflation rate.—Science News staff

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