Dr. Emily Stephens is a recent Ph.D. graduate from Dartmouth’s Program in Experimental and Molecular Medicine. Her research focuses on the mechanism by which a commonly prescribed depression medication, Prozac, works. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most prescribed type of depression medication and work by increasing the amount of available serotonin in the body. She used fluoxetine (Prozac) in her studies because it is the most commonly prescribed medication from the SSRI family.
In this episode, we talk about the changes she saw in the function of neurons in the prefrontal cortex of rats. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for executive functioning, impulse control, and behavior regulation among other things. Patients with depression often suffer from deficits in executive functioning like short-term memory and planning. For these reasons, she focused her efforts on this part of the brain to try and answer some of neuroscience’s toughest questions about SSRIs. Why do they take so long to work? How do they change neuron function to deliver results in patients?
Resources for this topic and anything discussed in the episode will be included in the listener resources section after the podcast is released. To access this content, simply hover your mouse over the “Listener Resources” tab in the main menu, move to “Neuroscience Episodes”, then click on “Dr. Emily Stephens (E04)”.
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