Developmental effects of SSRIs: lessons learned from animal studies — (International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience)

SSRI Ed note: Researchers find that in mice, exposure to SSRIs during critical periods of brain development leads to maladaptive behaviours that persist into adulthood,
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International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience


Xenia Boruea, b, John Chena, b and Barry G. Condronb, Corresponding Author Contact Information , E-mail The Corresponding Author
aUniversity of Virginia Medical Scientist Training Program and University of Virginia Neuroscience Graduate Program, Charlottesville, VA 22904, United States
bUniversity of Virginia, Department of Biology, Charlottesville, VA 22904, United States
Received 1 June 2007;  accepted 19 June 2007.  Available online 7 July 2007.


Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are utilized in the treatment of depression in pregnant and lactating women. SSRIs may be passed to the fetus through the placenta and the neonate through breastfeeding, potentially exposing them to SSRIs during peri- and postnatal development. However, the long-term effects of this SSRI exposure are still largely unknown. The simplicity and genetic amenability of model organisms provides a critical experimental advantage compared to studies with humans. This review will assess the current research done in animals that sheds light on the role of serotonin during development and the possible effects of SSRIs. Experimental studies in rodents show that administration of SSRIs during a key developmental window creates changes in brain circuitry and maladaptive behaviors that persist into adulthood. Similar changes result from the inhibition of the serotonin transporter or monoamine oxidase, implicating these two regulators of serotonin signaling in developmental changes. Understanding the role of serotonin in brain development is critical to identifying the possible effects of SSRI exposure.

Keywords: Serotonin; Neurotransmitter; CNS development

Corresponding Author Contact Information Corresponding author at: University of Virginia, Department of Biology, Gilmer Hall 071, Box 400328, Charlottesville, VA 22904, United States. Tel.: +1 434 243 6794; fax: +1 434 243 5315.