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 journalArticlepeer-review


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
Pages (from-to)1541-6
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Aspartic Acid
  • Biomarkers
  • Citalopram
  • Depressive Disorder, Major
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurons
  • Protons
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult

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