Background: Animal studies have shown that stress is associated with damage to the hippocampus, inhibition of neurogenesis, and deficits in hippocampal-based memory dysfunction. Studies in patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) found deficits in hippocampal-based declarative verbal memory and smaller hippocampal volume, as measured with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Recent preclinical evidence has shown that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors promote neurogenesis and reverse the effects of stress on hippocampal atrophy. This study assessed the effects of long-term treatment with paroxetine on hippocampal volume and declarative memory performance in PTSD.
Methods: Declarative memory was assessed with the Wechsler Memory Scale-Revised and Selective Reminding Test before and after 9-12 months of treatment with paroxetine in PTSD. Hippocampal volume was measured with MRI. Of the 28 patients who started the protocol, 23 completed the full course of treatment and neuropsychological testing. Twenty patients were able to complete MRI imaging.
Results: Patients with PTSD showed a significant improvement in PTSD symptoms with treatment. Treatment resulted in significant improvements in verbal declarative memory and a 4.6% increase in mean hippocampal volume.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that long-term treatment with paroxetine is associated with improvement of verbal declarative memory deficits and an increase in hippocampal volume in PTSD.