Study Finds Antidepressants Blunt Empathy

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Markus Rütgen Post-doctoral researcher Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Unit Faculty of Psychology University of Vienna

Dr. Ruetgen

Dr. Markus Rütgen PhD
Post-doctoral researcher
Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Unit
Faculty of Psychology
University of Vienna 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Previous research has reported empathy deficits in patients with major depressive disorder. However, a high percentage of patients taking part in these studies were taking antidepressants, which are known to influence emotion processing. In our study, we wanted to overcome this important limitation. We were interested in whether the previously reported empathic deficits were attributable to the acute state of depression, or to the antidepressant treatment.

To this end, we performed a longitudinal neuroimaging study, in which we measured brain activity and self-reported empathy in response to short video clips showing people in pain. We measured acutely depressed patients twice. First, before they started their treatment, second, after three months of treatment with a state-of-the-art antidepressant (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).

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