General, Research, Technology

How antidepressants affect the human brain

In the anti-utopian novel O Brave New WorldAldous Huxley, written in 1931, talks about pills (drugs) of “catfish” that change a person’s mood and act as modern antidepressants. Two decades after the release of the book, scientists began developing true antidepressants. But why are these drugs really effective? What effect do they have on the human brain?

The therapeutic effect of antidepressants is proven. But how exactly do they work?

How did antidepressants appear?

For the first time, the relationship between depression and brain functionwas discovered by scientists only in 1951. A group of doctors from New York revealed unexpected changes in the mood and behavior of patients with tuberculosis after they started giving a drug called iproniazide. People suffering from severe pain suddenly became happy.

Scientists quickly came to understand that betweendepression and brain function are linked, and drugs have been developed to help cope with depression and apathy. Since then, millions of Americans have become addicted to antidepressants. For example, one of the most popular ones admitted to sale in 1998 is Prozac.

How antidepressants work

To find out exactly what effect thesedrugs are being delivered to the human brain, scientists from Yale and Manchester universities have decided to investigate how antidepressants change the connections between different areas of the brain. According to scientists, antidepressants should strengthen ties in the area responsible for attention and emotions, and weaken those in the area that is responsible for clinical depression, apathy and "self-immersion."

To test their hypothesis, researchershad an experience. They looked at MRI data for patients with depression one week after the start of antidepressant medication. Further, with the help of machine learning, the connections of the whole brain, as well as the connections of specific areas of the cortex and subcortical structures with each other, were analyzed.

Indeed, as soon as patients first timetook antidepressants with serotonin, the drug strengthened the connections between the brain networks responsible for attention. At the same time, he weakened the connection between the areas of passive brain function. In the case of placebo, a similar effect could not be achieved. Interestingly, changes in connections were observed even before patients improved mood.

Blue shows a weakening of ties, red - a gain

According to experts, once the processes in the headthe brain begins to occur before the therapeutic effect of antidepressants appears, MRI can help determine whether a particular drug works to suppress depression in a particular person. The scientists plan to investigate the work of popular antidepressants, since it is with the help of the picture of the connections of the brain that one can find out whether they are really effective.

See also - Antidepressants do not work as scientists thought

Decades of research have shown that betweenserotonin and autism have a connection. About 10 years ago, this led scientists to test antidepressants that increase serotonin levels by blocking its distribution in neurons, as a possible cure for autism. However, in several studies, antidepressants such as fluoxetine (Prozac) have been found to be ineffective in reducing autism.