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Differential effects of escitalopram on attention: a placebo-controlled, double-blind cross-over study.

Author(s): Drueke B, Baetz J, Boecker M, Moeller O, Hiemke C, Grunder G, Gauggel S

Affiliation(s): Department of Medical Psychology and Medical Sociology, RWTH Aachen University, Pauwelsstr. 30, 52074, Aachen, Germany. bdrueke@ukaachen.de

Publication date & source: 2009-12, Psychopharmacology (Berl)., 207(2):213-23. Epub 2009 Sep 16.

Publication type: Randomized Controlled Trial; Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

RATIONALE: The role of serotonin (5-HT) in attention is not fully understood yet. OBJECTIVE: We aimed to investigate whether attention is modulated after treatment with escitalopram, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). METHODS: We administered 10 mg of escitalopram to 20 healthy subjects in a placebo-controlled, double-blind cross-over design for 1 day or to another 20 participants for a period of 7 days. Attention was assessed at time of plasma peak escitalopram concentration using the computerised Attention Network Test (ANT), which is a combined flanker and cued reaction time task. RESULTS: The results showed differential effects of serotonergic manipulation on attention depending on sequence of intake. For the acute treatment, we found significant differences between escitalopram and placebo for all warning conditions dependent of sequence of intake: participants receiving escitalopram as first treatment showed significant slower reaction times in all warning conditions as compared with placebo while participants receiving escitalopram as second treatment showed significant faster reaction times as compared with placebo. For the sub-chronic treatment, we found significant differences between escitalopram and placebo depending on sequence of intake, but only for the flanker condition: participants receiving escitalopram first had significant slower reaction times in incongruent trials with escitalopram as compared with placebo while participants starting with placebo had significant shorter reaction times in incongruent trials with escitalopram. CONCLUSIONS: Thus, the results showed a differential effect of escitalopram in cognition, especially in attention, and are discussed with regard to an interaction between serotonin and familiarity with the attention test.

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