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Int J Dev Neurosci. 2007 Oct;25(6):341-7. Epub 2007 Jul 7.

Developmental effects of SSRIs: lessons learned from animal studies.

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University of Virginia Medical Scientist Training Program and University of Virginia Neuroscience Graduate Program, Charlottesville, VA 22904, USA.


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.

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