Childhood and adolescent depression: why do children and adults respond differently to antidepressant drugs?

Neurochem Int. 2007 Oct;51(5):246-53. doi: 10.1016/j.neuint.2007.06.025. Epub 2007 Jun 30.


Childhood and adolescent depression is an increasingly problematic diagnosis for young people due to a lack of effective treatments for this age group. The symptoms of adult depression can be treated effectively with multiple classes of antidepressant drugs which have been developed over the years using animal and human studies. But many of the antidepressants used to treat adult depression cannot be used for pediatric depression because of a lack of efficacy and/or side effects. The reason that children and adolescents respond differently to antidepressant treatment than adults is poorly understood. In order to better understand the etiology of pediatric depression and treatments that are effective for this age group, the differences between adults, children and adolescents needed to be elucidated. Much of the understanding of adult depression has come from studies using adult animals, therefore studies using juvenile animals would likely help us to better understand childhood and adolescent depression. Recent studies have shown both neurochemical and behavioral differences between adult and juvenile animals after antidepressant treatment. Juvenile animals have differences compared to adult animals in the maturation of the serotonergic and noradrenergic systems, and in dose of antidepressant drug needed to achieve similar brain levels. Differences after administration of antidepressant drug have also been reported for adrenergic receptor regulation, a physiologic hypothermic response, as well as behavioral differences in two animal models of depression. The differences between adults and juveniles not only in the human response to antidepressants but also with animals studies warrant a specific distinction between the study of pediatric and adult depression and the manner in which new treatments are pursued.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Behavior / drug effects
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Child
  • Depression / drug therapy*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Hypothermia / physiopathology
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / drug effects
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism
  • Species Specificity


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled