Single dose antidepressant administration modulates the neural processing of self-referent personality trait words

Miskowiak K, Papadatou-Pastou M, Cowen PJ, Goodwin GM, Norbury R, Harmer CJ

Neuroimage. 2007 Sep 1;37(3):904-11.


Drugs which inhibit the re-uptake of monoamines in the brain are effective in the treatment of depression; however, the neuropsychological mechanisms which lead to the resolution of depressive symptomatology are unclear. Behavioral studies in healthy volunteers suggest that acute administration of the selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor reboxetine modulates emotional processing. The current study therefore explored the neural basis of this effect. A single dose of reboxetine (4 mg) or placebo was administered to 24 healthy volunteers in a double-blind between-group design. Neural responses during categorisation and recognition of self-referent personality trait words were assessed using event-related functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). Reboxetine had no effect on neuronal response during self-referent categorisation of positive or negative personality trait words. However, in a subsequent memory test, reboxetine reduced neuronal activation in a fronto-parietal network during correct recognition of positive target words vs. matched distractors. This was combined with increased speed to recognize positive vs. negative words compared to control subjects and suggests facilitated memory for positive self-referent material. These results support the hypothesis that antidepressants have early effects on the neural processing of emotional material which may be important in their therapeutic actions.

Effects of Erythropoietin on Hippocampal Volume and Memory in Mood Disorders.

Miskowiak KW, Vinberg M, Macoveanu J, Ehrenreich H, Køster N, Inkster B, Paulson OB, Kessing LV, Skimminge A, Siebner HR

Biol Psychiatry. 2015 Aug 15;78(4):270-7



Persistent cognitive dysfunction in depression and bipolar disorder (BD) impedes patients’ functional recovery. Erythropoietin (EPO) increases neuroplasticity and reduces cognitive difficulties in treatment-resistant depression (TRD) and remitted BD. This magnetic resonance imaging study assessed the neuroanatomical basis for these effects.


Patients with TRD who were moderately depressed or BD in partial remission were randomized to 8 weekly EPO (40,000 IU) or saline infusions in a double-blind, parallel-group design. Patients underwent magnetic resonance imaging, memory assessment with the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test, and mood ratings with the Beck Depression Inventory, Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, and Young Mania Rating Scale at baseline and week 14. Hippocampus segmentation and analysis of hippocampal volume, shape, and gray matter density were conducted with FMRIB Software Library tools. Memory change was analyzed with repeated-measures analysis of covariance adjusted for depression symptoms, diagnosis, age, and gender.


Eighty-four patients were randomized; 1 patient withdrew and data collection was incomplete for 14 patients; data were thus analyzed for 69 patients (EPO: n = 35, saline: n = 34). Compared with saline, EPO was associated with mood-independent memory improvement and reversal of brain matter loss in the left hippocampal cornu ammonis 1 to cornu ammonis 3 and subiculum. Using the entire sample, memory improvement was associated with subfield hippocampal volume increase independent of mood change.


EPO-associated memory improvement in TRD and BD may be mediated by reversal of brain matter loss in a subfield of the left hippocampus. EPO may provide a therapeutic option for patients with mood disorders who have impaired neuroplasticity and cognition.

Erythropoietin enhances hippocampal response during memory retrieval in humans.

Erythropoietin enhances hippocampal response during memory retrieval in humans. 

Miskowiak K, O’Sullivan U, Harmer CJ.


Journal of Neuroscience 2007 Mar 14;27(11):2788-92.


Although erythropoietin (Epo) is best known for its effects on erythropoiesis, recent evidence suggests that it also has neurotrophic and neuroprotective properties in animal models of hippocampal function. Such an action in humans would make it an intriguing novel compound for the treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders. The current study therefore aimed to explore the effects of Epo on neural and behavioral measures of hippocampal function in humans using a functional magnetic resonance imaging paradigm. Volunteers were randomized to receive intravenous injection of Epo (40,000 IU) or saline in a between-subjects, double-blind, randomized design. Neural response during picture encoding and retrieval was tested 1 week later. Epo increased hippocampus response during picture retrieval (n = 11) compared with placebo (n = 12; p = 0.04) independent of changes in hematocrit. This is consistent with upregulation of hippocampal BDNF and neurotrophic actions found in animals and highlights Epo as a promising candidate for treatment of psychiatric disorders.