Antidepressants in healthy subjects: what are the psychotropic/psychological effects?

Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2010 Jul;20(7):433-53. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2009.11.009. Epub 2010 Jan 15.


A wide debate is ongoing regarding whether antidepressant effects should be considered a general property of these agents or whether they exclusively belong to the context of target symptoms. The aim of the present review is to summarize findings on antidepressant influences on healthy volunteers, focusing on changes in psychological and cognitive functions. Differences have been detected between acute and chronic treatments. Acute treatment has been found to lead to positive bias in emotion processing and facilitation in negative emotion recognition. Chronic treatments have been found to stabilise some changes induced by acute treatment, such as increased social behaviours. Regarding antidepressant modulation of affective symptomatology contrasting results have been reported suggesting that the link between action on cognitive processes and mood may be not direct. In fact, meta-analyzing data on mood and anxiety symptoms no difference was detected between subjects receiving placebo and SSRIs. However, meta-analyzing data on negative affects, a significant decrease was detected in subjects receiving SSRIs in comparison with subjects receiving placebo. In summary, antidepressants seem to exert a detectable influence also in healthy subjects.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antidepressive Agents / adverse effects
  • Antidepressive Agents / pharmacology*
  • Behavioral Symptoms / chemically induced*
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Emotions / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Memory Disorders / chemically induced
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic


  • Antidepressive Agents