New research published in the Journal of Neurotrauma indicates that antidepressants may have a medical purpose in addition to altering mood. The researcher who conducted the studies on mice is the chief neurosurgeon at Highland Hospital in New York. He reported evidence that suggests antidepressants encourage growth and retention of brain cells after traumatic brain injuries and may help improve a victim’s memory.
The researcher conducted a four-week experiment in which some mice with brain injuries were given the antidepressant Tofranil, generically known as imipramine, and some were not. The mice that were given the antidepressant Tofranil experienced a 70 percent growth of cells or neurons in the memory center of the brain. Using a behavioral recognition test as a barometer, the mice in the antidepressant group also displayed a better ability to remember.
This latest research concurs with past studies that showed neurons are capable of moving to parts of the brain where cells are most needed. The neurosurgeon did not think the outcome of his experiment was conclusive enough to make a definitive statement about antidepressants helping brain cells stay alive while also encouraging new cells to grow. However, the doctor was hopeful that his research will be strong enough to spur other similar studies that could support and develop his findings.
Most patients who suffer from traumatic brain injuries are already prescribed antidepressants to assist in their emotional recoveries. As a result, the doctor believed that the FDA could introduce antidepressants as a tool to mend the brain faster than many new drugs are introduced to the market. Unlike most new drugs, the doctor suggested that antidepressants could be introduced with fewer lengthy clinical trials, hopefully becoming available to the public in as little as two years.
His research strongly suggests that patients who are administered antidepressants immediately after brain injuries would have a greater chance of overall cognitive function.
Source: msnbc.com, “Antidepressants could help heal brain injuries,” Amanda Chan, 19 April 2011