Antidepressant May Help in Stroke Recovery
Study Shows Lexapro Helps Improve Memory and Learning Skills
WebMD News Archive
Feb. 1, 2010 -- A common antidepressant may help restore brain function and
aid in stroke recovery, a study shows.
The study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, shows
treatment with Lexapro (escitalopram) improved overall thinking, learning, and
memory skills in the months immediately following a stroke.
Researchers say the beneficial effect of Lexapro on stroke recovery was
independent of its effect on depression and suggests that the use of
antidepressants in stroke treatment merits further study.
They say there is increasing evidence that antidepressants, such as SSRIs
(selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), stimulate the production of
compounds essential for nerve growth, which may help restore brain function
such as memory and verbal skills.
"Overall, whatever may be the mechanism of improved cognitive recovery, this
study has shown, for the first time, that escitalopram, an SSRI, is associated
with improved cognitive recovery following stroke," write researcher Ricardo E.
Jorge, MD, of the department of psychiatry at the University of Iowa and
Despite significant improvements in stroke treatment in recent years, stroke
remains a major cause of death and disability worldwide.
The most effective stroke treatment, clot-dissolving drugs, must be used
within the first few hours after a stroke begins, which limits the number of
stroke patients who can benefit from it.
Therefore, there has been great interest in developing stroke treatments
that can be administered in the first few months after stroke, the period in
which the most significant stroke recovery occurs.
In the study, researchers examined the effects of treatment with Lexapro in
129 non-depressed stroke patients in the first three months after stroke. The
participants were divided into three groups and randomly assigned to take
either Lexapro, a placebo pill, or receive problem-solving therapy for 12
The results showed that those stroke patients who received Lexapro had
higher scores on tests of thinking, learning, and memory function as well as
verbal and visual memory.
“Importantly, the reported changes in neuropsychological performance
resulted in an improvement in related activities of daily living,” write the