A Groundbreaking Study Revealed How Using Antidepressants During Pregnancy Affects Fetal Brain Development, Showing How Serotonin Impacts Prefrontal Cortex Development

Syda Productions - - illustrative purposes only, not the actual person

Approximately 5.5% of women in North America use antidepressants during pregnancy. However, a recent study has presented clear findings that the use of antidepressants during pregnancy may affect the brain development of a child, potentially increasing the likelihood of mental health issues as they grow older.

Researchers from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus spearheaded this study. They examined the impact of fluoxetine, an ingredient found in antidepressants like Prozac and Sarafem, commonly prescribed for depression and perinatal depression, on the development of the prefrontal cortex in the brain.

The team focused on understanding how fluoxetine, which elevates serotonin levels in the brain, affects the development of the prefrontal cortex in a fetus, considering serotonin’s key role in this process.

“While it is known that serotonin plays a role in brain development, the mechanisms responsible for this influence, specifically in the prefrontal cortex, have been unclear,” said Won Chan Oh, the study’s lead author.

“The prefrontal cortex, the most evolved brain region, plays a central role in highest-order cognition, which is why we focused our study on finding the answer from this brain area.”

Won Chan Oh and his student, Roberto Ogelman, also discovered that serotonin directly impacts the formation and development of early excitatory synaptic connections in the prefrontal cortex. Disruptions or imbalances in these connections during early development could lead to a range of mental health disorders.

“Our research uncovers the specific processes at the synaptic level that explain how serotonin contributes to the development of this important brain region during early-life fluoxetine exposure,” explained Oh.

“We are the first to provide experimental evidence of the direct impact of serotonin on the developing prefrontal cortex when fluoxetine is taken during pregnancy because fluoxetine not only crosses the placenta but also passes into milk.”

So, during their research, the team examined how both a deficiency and an excess of serotonin affect brain development in mice.

Syda Productions – – illustrative purposes only, not the actual person

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