Antidepressants may reduce negative memories

"How antidepressants affect cognition is a hugely understudied area of research," says Stephanie Leal. (Credit: Getty Images)

Antidepressants may reduce negative memories in individuals with depression while improving overall memory function, research indicates.

The study appears in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. It examines how antidepressant use in depressed individuals affects memories, both good and bad.

Stephanie Leal, an assistant professor of psychological sciences at Rice University, is the study’s lead author. She says the study’s main finding about the link between antidepressants and memories is an important one, because there is still much to be learned about how these drugs work.

“While antidepressants have been around since the 1950s, we still don’t really know how they work,” Leal says. “They only work about 50% of the time, and users often have to go through multiple types of antidepressants to get to a place where they actually feel like the drugs are beneficial. We don’t fully understand how these drugs reduce depressive symptoms and why they are so often ineffective. That’s a big problem.”

The study’s results suggest that antidepressants, when effective, can shift memory dynamics toward healthy function, Leal says.

“How antidepressants affect cognition is a hugely understudied area of research,” she says. “By measuring how antidepressants impact memory, we can use this information to better select treatments depending on people’s symptoms of depression.”

The study included 48 participants ages 18 to 35. All individuals were surveyed and had been actively taking antidepressants (regardless of the type of antidepressant and diagnosis) for at least one month prior to participation in the study. A follow-up study is taking place to examine how the brain responds to antidepressants. Learn more about the study.

Source: Rice University