Background: A majority of stroke patients have persisting motor deficits despite ongoing physiotherapy. Therefore, additional treatment options are desirable.
Objective: We investigated if the serotonin reuptake inhibitor, citalopram, would improve motor functions in chronic stroke patients.
Methods: In all, 8 patients >6 months after their stroke participated in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, single-dose crossover experiment. The order (first drug then placebo or vice versa) was randomized. Sessions were separated by at least 2 weeks. Motor function was assessed by nine-hole peg test, and measurements of hand grip-strength before drug intake, 2 hours after drug intake, and after 1 hour of training aimed at improving the function of the paretic hand.
Results: Compared with placebo, citalopram intake significantly improved performance of the nine-hole peg test for the paretic hand but not for the unaffected hand. Hand grip-strength remained unchanged.
Conclusions: A single dose of citalopram can enhance dexterity in chronic stroke patients. This pilot study justifies a test of efficacy of citalopram in a larger group of stroke patients.