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Antidepressants Don't Work...In Fish

Neuroskeptic iconNeuroskeptic
By Neuroskeptic
Feb 10, 2011 8:10 AMNov 5, 2019 12:17 AM


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Here at Neuroskeptic fMRI scanning and antidepressants are both big topics.

As I discussed lask week, fish - specifically salmon - are the next big thing in fMRI and the number of salmon brains being scanned is growing at a remarkable rate. But fish haven't made much of an entrance into the world of antidepressants...until now.

Swedish scientists H

olmberg et al have just published a paper asking: Does waterborne citalopram affect the aggressive and sexual behaviour of rainbow trout and guppy?

SSRI antidepressants, of which citalopram is one, are very popular. So popular, in fact, that non-trivial levels of SSRIs have been found in sewage and there's a concern that they might make their way into lakes and rivers and thereby affect the behaviour of the animals living there.

Holmberg et al set out to see what citalopram did to some fish in an attempt to find out whether this is likely to be a major problem. So they put some citalopram in the fish's water supplies and then tested their aggressiveness and also their sex drives. It turns out that one of the main ways of measure fish aggression is to put a mirror in their tank and see if they try to fight their own reflection. Fish are not very bright, really.

Anyway, the good news for fish everywhere was that seven days of citalopram exposure had no effect at all, even at doses much higher than those reported as a pollutant (the maximum dose was 0.1 mg/l). And the authors had no conflicts of interest: Big Pharma had nothing to do with this research, although Big Fish Farmer did because they bought the fish from one.

However, this may not be the end of the story, because it turned out that citalopram was very poorly absorbed into the fish's bloodstreams. But other antidepressants have been reported to accumulate in fish. Clearly, the only way to find out for sure what's going on would be to use fMRI...

Holmberg A, Fogel J, Albertsson E, Fick J, Brown JN, Paxéus N, Förlin L, Johnsson JI, & Larsson DG (2011). Does waterborne citalopram affect the aggressive and sexual behaviour of rainbow trout and guppy? Journal of hazardous materials PMID: 21300431

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