Effexor causes memory loss

Memory gaps due to antidepressants?

Suppression of REM sleep disrupts learning processes

Depression can be effectively treated with drugs that suppress REM sleep. Not only do most dreams take place during these phases of sleep, but memories are also solidified in the memory. As scientists from the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin have now discovered, the suppression of REM sleep also impairs learning and can cause memory disorders. The results of the study are in the journal Sleep * released.

People with depression are listless, appear tired and limp on the outside. But inside they are tense and the brain is working at full speed. According to scientific research, one of the most effective therapies is the suppression of REM sleep with certain antidepressants. However, this mechanism of action also influences cognitive performance: In the REM sleep phases, memories are solidified in long-term memory and thus promote procedural learning. These are automated learning processes, such as playing the piano or cycling.

Previous studies have shown that depressed people are impaired in their procedural learning and have an increased risk of developing cognitive disorders or dementia. Are these symptoms an expression of the disease or are they only caused by the antidepressants? The working group around private lecturer Dr. Dieter Kunz from the Institute for Physiology at the Charité in an experimental study. 25 healthy participants were asked to memorize visual patterns at bedtime. They were then given either a placebo or the antidepressant amitriptyline. The next evening, the learning success was tested: the test subjects with the placebo preparation were able to recognize the patterns much faster than those who received amitriptyline.

“Our results suggest that cognitive disorders in depressed patients are at least partly caused by the antidepressant amitriptyline. The intrusion of psychoactive substances into the complicated sleep processes can explain a number of the known side effects such as cognitive deficits, weight gain and morning apathy, ”says sleep researcher Dr. Kunz. He also emphasizes: "The development of new substances that not only improve the well-being of depressed people during the day, but also promote their sleep quality, must be promoted."

* Goerke M, Cohrs S, Rodenbeck A, Kunz D. Differential effect of an anticholinergic antidepressant on sleep - dependent memory consolidation. Sleep 2014 May 01. Thu: 10.5665 / sleep.3674


Working group sleep research & clinical chronobiology


Privatdozent Dr. Dieter Kunz
Institute of Physiology
Charité - University Medicine Berlin
t: +49 30 231 129 00

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