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Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2004 Jun;6(2):157-69.

Neural plasticity: consequences of stress and actions of antidepressant treatment.

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Division of Molecular Psychiatry, Departments of Psychiatry and Pharmacology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA.


Neural plasticity is emerging as a fundamental and critical mechanism of neuronal function, which allows the brain to receive information and make the appropriate adaptive responses to subsequent related stimuli. Elucidation of the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying neural plasticity is a major goal of neuroscience research, and significant advances have been made in recent years. These mechanisms include regulation of signal transduction and gene expression, and also structural alterations of neuronal spines and processes, and even the birth of new neurons in the adult brain. Altered plasticity could thereby contribute to psychiatric and neurological disorders. This article revievi/s the literature demonstrating altered plasticity in response to stress, and evidence that chronic antidepressant treatment can reverse or block the effects, and even induce neural piasiicity-iike responses. Continued elucidation of the mechanisms underlying neural plasticity will lead to novel drug targets that could prove to be effective and rapidly acting therapeutic interventions.


gene expression; neurogenesis; neuronal atrophy; neurotrophic factor; signal transduction

Biol Psychiatry. 1999 Nov 1;46(9):1181-91.

Neural plasticity to stress and antidepressant treatment.

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Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, Connecticut Mental Health Center, New Haven, USA.


Adaptations at the cellular and molecular levels in response to stress and antidepressant treatment could represent a form of neural plasticity that contributes to the pathophysiology and treatment of depression. At the cellular level, atrophy and death of stress-vulnerable neurons in the hippocampus, as well as decreased neurogenesis of hippocampal neurons, has been reported in preclinical studies. Clinical studies also provide evidence for atrophy and cell death in the hippocampus, as well as the prefrontal cortex. It is possible that antidepressant treatment could oppose these adverse cellular effects, which may be regarded as a loss of neural plasticity, by blocking or reversing the atrophy of hippocampal neurons and by increasing cell survival and function. The molecular mechanisms underlying these effects are discussed, including the role of the cAMP signal transduction cascade and neurotrophic factors.

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