Link Between Autism and Antidepressants Under Study
Researchers at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco found that when rats were given a popular prescribed antidepressant during its development stage, they start to exhibit brain abnormalities and behavior similar to autism spectrum disorder(ASD).
Findings suggest that a certain class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) during pregnancy might be a factor in these developmental disorders in children. The study also states that cases of these disorders in humans are rising.
Dr. Rick C.S. Lin of UMMC says, "We saw behaviors in the treated rats and neurological problems that indicate their brains are not properly conducting and processing information...However, based on this study alone it would be premature to conclude that a pregnant mother should stop taking SSRIs. A pregnant mother may do more harm to her baby through untreated depression than by taking prescribed SSRIs. This study is a starting point and a lot more research needs to be done."
The study is posted online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Research was done on more than 200 rats with the SSRI citalopram during the key stages of brain development. Rats are born at a development stage equivalent to the end of the sixth month of fetal development in humans.
Rats that received treatment were uninterested in play when young and displayed poor social behaviors as adults. They also exhibited abnormal responses to changes in their surroundings.
Dr. Kimberly Simpson, associate professor of neurobiology and anatomical sciences of UMMC notes that, "These results demonstrate that rat pups, when exposed perinatally to SSRIs, exhibit behavioral traits often seen in ASD..."
Those behaviors occur in the treated male rats than in the females. Similarly, ASD is diagnosed more often in human males.