JUN 19, 2019 08:10 AM PDT

Antidepressants May Impair Empathy

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

Depression is tagged with strong impairments of social functioning. Until recently, researchers believed that acute depression impairs empathy—a necessary skill needed to understand people and interact with others. However, previous studies on empathy examined patients only on antidepressant treatments. Now, unique insights derived from interdisciplinary collaborations— in a research cluster known as "Multimodal Neuroimaging in Clinical Neurosciences”--sought to shed new light on the relationship between effects of acute depressive episodes and antidepressant treatments on empathy responses. The research revealed that antidepressant treatment may impair empathy in regards to pain perception and not just depression itself.

Researchers examined non-medicated patients with acute depression by testing their empathic responses to the pain of others and then comparing these results to the same patients post three month treatment with antidepressants, primarily selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

Findings revealed that patients on treatment had lower levels of empathy and when undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging, they had reduced brain activation in regions associated with empathy. Results were published in in the scientific journal Translational Psychiatry.

"The lowered emotional impact of negative events in a social context possibly allows patients to recover more easily. Nevertheless, the actual impact of reduced empathy on patients' social behavior remains to be explored,” says first author of the study, Markus Rütgen.

Finally, findings concluded that the reduced empathic responses are not caused by the general dampening of negative emotions.

Learn more about treating depression with antidepressants:

Source: University of Vienna

About the Author
  • Nouran enjoys writing on various topics including science & medicine, global health, and conservation biology. She hopes through her writing she can make science more engaging and communicable to the general public.
You May Also Like
JUL 17, 2019
Drug Discovery
JUL 17, 2019
Chemopreventative Drug Targets H. Pylori Infections
A chemopreventative drug being tested for its ability to inhibit the production of cell growth in multiple types of cancer was found to act directly on the...
JUL 17, 2019
Microbiology
JUL 17, 2019
Disrupting tRNA in Bacteria - A Way to Fight Antibiotic Resistant Microbes
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria already cause the deaths of around 23,000 people every year, and that number is expected to rise dramatically....
JUL 17, 2019
Drug Discovery
JUL 17, 2019
Potential Drug Target for Stroke Patients
In a study published in Science, a proton-activated chloride channel (PAC) may serve as a drug target to protect against the tissue-damaging effects of str...
JUL 17, 2019
Drug Discovery
JUL 17, 2019
Rapamycin and Anti-Aging
Rapamycin was considered a wonder drug upon its discovery three decades ago when it was isolated from soil bacteria. It works as an immuno-suppressor in a ...
JUL 17, 2019
Microbiology
JUL 17, 2019
Vulnerability in Famously Hard-to-Target Viruses is Identified
The cold virus is famously difficult to target with drugs because it can mutate rapidly....
JUL 17, 2019
Drug Discovery
JUL 17, 2019
Anticholinergic Drugs and Dementia?
A link between anticholinergic drug use and cognitive impairment was recently observed from observational studies on randomized clinical trials. Regenstrie...
Loading Comments...