Effect of antidepressant therapy on executive function after stroke*

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Abstract

Background

Executive dysfunction is common after stroke and may impair long-term outcome. Remedies for this condition are limited.

Aims

To examine the effect of antidepressants on executive function after stroke.

Method

Forty-seven patients who had had a stroke during the prior 6 months received 12 weeks of antidepressant treatment in double-blind placebo-controlled fashion, followed by assessment of executive function at the end of treatment and after 2 years.

Results

No significant group effect was found at the end of treatment. However, 21 months after the end of treatment the placebo group showed deterioration of executive function, whereas the active treatment group showed clear and significant improvement independent of depressive symptoms (F=12.1, d.f.=1,45, P=0.001).

Conclusions

Antidepressant treatment fosters long-term improvement of executive function following stroke. This phenomenon is consistent with a reorganisation of neuronal networks associated with prefrontal functions based on modulation of monoaminergic neurotransmission and the activity of neurotrophins.

Declaration of interest

None. Funding detailed in Acknowledgements.

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