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expert reaction to antidepressant exposure and autism-like behaviour in mice

A new study, published in eNeuro, assesses antidepressant exposure during pregnancy and autism-like behaviour in mouse pups.


Dr Rosa Hoekstra, Lecturer in Psychology, King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN), said:

“It is important to stress that this research was done in mice, not humans. While rodent research can be helpful in furthering the understanding of the biological foundations of brain development and behavioural development, it is notoriously difficult to map behaviour observed in mice to its equivalence in humans. Autism is a highly variable condition, with large variations in the exact type of autism characteristics expressed, and the extent to which these characteristics are felt to be disabling. The findings of this study can thus not readily be translated to humans.

“Lastly, and most importantly, as the authors highlight themselves, untreated depression and anxiety during pregnancy is a serious risk factor for adverse outcomes. Some previous studies in humans have suggested – though not yet unequivocally – that the chance of having a child with autism is very slightly raised if the mother takes antidepressants during pregnancy. However, that risk is dwarfed compared to the risk for mother and child due to untreated severe depression and anxiety. The current study in mice is no reason to change current medication decisions for pregnant women with severe depression or anxiety.”


* ‘Examining the Reversibility of Long-Term Behavioral Disruptions in Progeny of Maternal SSRI Exposure’ by Maloney et al. published in eNeuro on Monday 2nd July.



Declared interests

Dr Rosa Hoekstra: “I have no COI to report.”


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