Antidepressant may help improve cognitive function after stroke

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Washington, Feb 2 (ANI): Antidepressant escitalopram may help improve thinking, learning and memory skills in stroke patients, says a new study.

The study has been published in the February issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

"Consequently, besides the efforts currently undertaken to increase the number of patients treated with thrombolytic agents, there is growing interest in restorative therapies that can be administered during the first few months after stroke, the period within which we observe the greatest degree of spontaneous recovery of initial motor and cognitive deficits," the authors write.

Ricardo E. Jorge, M.D., and colleagues at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, studied the effects of one antidepressant-a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), escitalopram-among 129 stroke patients. Within three months of their stroke, 43 patients were randomly assigned to take 5 to 10 milligrams of escitalopram daily, 45 to take a placebo daily and 41 to participate in a problem-solving therapy program developed for treating patients with depression.

After 12 weeks of treatment, patients taking escitalopram had higher scores on neuropsychological tests assessing overall cognitive (thinking, learning and memory) function and on those measuring verbal and visual memory.

"Importantly, the reported changes in neuropsychological performance resulted in an improvement in related activities of daily living," the authors write.

"The beneficial effect of escitalopram on cognitive recovery was independent of its effect on depressive symptoms and was not influenced by stroke type or mechanism of ischemic stroke," they continue. "In addition, escitalopram was well tolerated and the frequency of adverse effects related to its administration was not different than that observed among patients receiving placebo." (ANI)

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