Antidepressants may counter effects of brain ageing: study
A commonly used antidepressant medication Prozac can counter some of the effects of brain ageing, such as sensory and cognitive decline, an MIT study suggests.
The research published in the Journal of Neuroscience provides fresh evidence that the decline in the capacity of brain cells to change — called ‘plasticity’ — rather than a decline in total cell number, may underlie some of the sensory and cognitive declines associated with normal brain ageing.
Scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology showed that they could restore a significant degree of lost plasticity to the cells by treating mice with the commonly used antidepressant medication fluoxetine, also known as Prozac. “Despite common belief, loss of neurons due to cell death is quite limited during normal ageing and unlikely to account for age-related functional impairments,” researchers said.
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“Rather it seems that structural alterations in neuronal morphology and synaptic connections are features most consistently correlated with brain age, and may be considered as the potential physical basis for the age-related decline,” they said.
Researchers focused on the ageing of inhibitory interneurons which is less well-understood than that of excitatory neurons, but potentially more crucial to plasticity. Plasticity, in turn, is key to enabling learning and memory and in maintaining sensory acuity. In the study, while they focused on the visual cortex, the plasticity they measured is believed to be important elsewhere in the brain as well.
“Our finding that fluoxetine treatment in ageing mice can attenuate the age-related declines in interneuron structural and visual cortex functional plasticity suggests it could provide a therapeutic approach towards mitigation of sensory and cognitive deficits associated with ageing, provided it is initiated before network deterioration,” they said.