Modulation of premotor cortex response to sequence motor learning during escitalopram intake

J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2021 Jun;41(6):1449-1462. doi: 10.1177/0271678X20965161. Epub 2020 Nov 4.


The contribution of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors to motor learning by inducing motor cortical plasticity remains controversial given diverse findings from positive preclinical data to negative findings in recent clinical trials. To empirically address this translational disparity, we use functional magnetic resonance imaging in a double-blind, randomized controlled study to assess whether 20 mg escitalopram improves sequence-specific motor performance and modulates cortical motor response in 64 healthy female participants. We found decreased left premotor cortex responses during sequence-specific learning performance comparing single dose and steady escitalopram state. Escitalopram plasma levels negatively correlated with the premotor cortex response. We did not find evidence in support of improved motor performance after a week of escitalopram intake. These findings do not support the conclusion that one week escitalopram intake increases motor performance but could reflect early adaptive plasticity with improved neural processing underlying similar task performance when steady peripheral escitalopram levels are reached.

Keywords: Functional magnetic resonance imaging; neural plasticity; post-stroke motor dysfunction; selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors; sequential motor learning.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Citalopram / pharmacology*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning / drug effects*
  • Motor Cortex / drug effects*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / drug effects
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects*
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Young Adult


  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
  • Citalopram