Prescribing antidepressants to children and pregnant women is becoming increasingly common. However, it hasn't been clear whether these medications pose a risk to the developing brain.
In a new study, researchers provide evidence that, in young mice, the antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) permanently alter the brain, resulting in a greater risk of depression and anxiety in adulthood.
SSRIs seem to combat depression by affecting a molecule, called a transporter, on the surface of some brain cells. The molecule's main role is to absorb serotonin, a brain chemical that regulates mood. SSRIs probably prevent the transporter from taking in serotonin, thereby increasing the amount of free serotonin in the brain and lightening a person's disposition.