Juvenile hamsters on low doses of Prozac are more aggressive than adult hamsters.
In a study worth reading by Tavarosh-Lahn, Bastida and Deville at the University of Texas – it was noticed that rates of aggression in male golden hamsters decreased naturally throughout the juvenile stage of their development. Hamsters are often used in studies of this sort because they display clear stages in development from ‘youthful play fighting’ to full blown adult aggression.
The researchers hypothesied that serotonin levels as controlled by the hypothalamus were the cause of this change in aggression levels – so they decided to dose the hamsters with the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor: fluoxetine (marketed as “Prozac”) to try and inhibit the aggressive behaviour and find out how serotonin levels differ between young and adult brains. However, results indicated that (in low doses of fluoxetine only) the juveniles aggressive behaviour was actually exacerbated.
Despite the controversial nature of generalising to humans from animal experiments, the neuroscientists suggested that this research could eventually help explain why human teenagers often experience higher levels of aggression and self destructive behaviour whilst on anti-depressants.
Tavarosh-Lahn states that the maturing brain “could possibly react to drugs given to adults in different and potentially negative ways. We need to understand how these drugs will affect the developing nervous system before giving them to children…It is unwise to expect a drug to work the same in juveniles as in adults.”
Considering that Prozac is the only medication approved to treat depression in children, the implications of studies like these are enormous and GP’s should be careful to use anti-depressants in only the most functionally impaired by depressive feelings, in order to render the patient more able to address the underlying problem and cure their depression.
Posted by: Eleanor