Early increase in marker of neuronal integrity with antidepressant treatment of major depression: 1H-magnetic resonance spectroscopy of N-acetyl-aspartate

Matthew J. Taylor, Beata R. Godlewska, Ray Norbury, Sudhakar Selvaraj, Jamie Near, Philip J. Cowen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Scopus citations


Increasing interest surrounds potential neuroprotective or neurotrophic actions of antidepressants. While growing evidence points to important early clinical and neuropsychological effects of antidepressants, the time-course of any effect on neuronal integrity is unclear. This study used magnetic resonance spectroscopy to assess effects of short-term treatment with escitalopram on N-acetyl-aspartate (NAA), a marker of neuronal integrity. Thirty-nine participants with major depression were randomly assigned to receive either 10 mg escitalopram or placebo daily in a double-blind, parallel group design. On the seventh day of treatment, PRESS data were obtained from a 30× 30× 20 mm voxel placed in medial frontal cortex. Age and gender-matched healthy controls who received no treatment were also scanned. Levels of NAA were significantly higher in patients treated with escitalopram than in either placebo-treated patients (p<0.01) or healthy controls (p<0.01). Our findings are consistent with the proposition that antidepressant treatment in depressed patients can produce early changes in neuronal integrity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1541-1546
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Nov 2012


  • Antidepressant
  • N-acetyl-aspartate
  • depression
  • magnetic resonance spectroscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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