Prenatal Exposure to SSRI Tied to Fetal Brain Development

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Significant gray matter volume expansion was seen in the right amygdala and right insula in SSRI-exposed infants in voxel-based morphometry.
Significant gray matter volume expansion was seen in the right amygdala and right insula in SSRI-exposed infants in voxel-based morphometry.

HealthDay News — Prenatal exposure to a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) is associated with fetal brain development, according to a study published online April 9 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Claudia Lugo-Candelas, Ph.D., from the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, and colleagues examined the correlations between prenatal SSRI exposure and brain development in a cohort of 98 infants. Of these, 16 had in utero SSRI exposure, 21 had in utero untreated maternal depression exposure, and 61 were healthy controls. Brain development was assessed using structural and diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The researchers found that infants underwent MRI at a mean age of 3.43 weeks. Compared with both healthy controls and infants exposed to untreated maternal depression, significant gray matter volume expansion was seen in the right amygdala and right insula in SSRI-exposed infants in voxel-based morphometry. The SSRI group showed a significant increase in connectivity between the right amygdala and the right insula in connectome-level analysis of white matter structural connectivity, with a large effect size relative to healthy controls and infants exposed to untreated depression.

"Our findings suggest that prenatal SSRI exposure has an association with fetal brain development, particularly in brain regions critical to emotional processing," the authors write. "The study highlights the need for further research on the potential long-term behavioral and psychological outcomes of these neurodevelopmental changes."

One author disclosed financial ties to the medical device and pharmaceutical industries.

Abstract/Full Text

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