Memory Magic: New Study Reveals Unexpected Benefits of Antidepressants

Happy Pills Antidepressant Medication

New research indicates that antidepressants may decrease negative memories and improve memory function in those with depression. The study highlights the unknowns in how antidepressants work and their often limited efficacy. The research, which included 48 participants on antidepressants, underscores the need for further study on the cognitive impacts of these medications, with ongoing research looking into the brain’s responses to them.

New research from Rice University finds that antidepressants may actually reduce negative memories in individuals suffering from depression while improving overall memory function. 

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

Insights from the Study’s Lead

Stephanie Leal, an assistant professor of psychological sciences at Rice, is the study’s lead author. She said the study’s main finding about the link between antidepressants and memories was 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 said. “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 Need for Further Research

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

“How antidepressants affect cognition is a hugely understudied area of research,” she said. “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 18-35. 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 currently being conducted to examine how the brain responds to antidepressants.

Reference: “Perceived antidepressant efficacy associated with reduced negative and enhanced neutral mnemonic discrimination” by Taylor O. Phillips, Madelyn Castro, Rishi K. Vas Lorena, A. Ferguson, Amritha Harikumar and Stephanie L. Leal, 28 August 2023, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2023.1225836

2 Comments on "Memory Magic: New Study Reveals Unexpected Benefits of Antidepressants"

  1. Very interesting research on the mode of action of antidepressants. Hopefully, soon, we’ll know exactly how they work and will be able to improve their success rate for people with depression.
    Neil Shearing

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