Antidepressant treatment in anxiety disorders

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Antidepressant drug treatment is the clinical standard of care for all types of anxiety disorders. Broad efficacy of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors suggests the importance of enhanced serotonergic function of the anxiolytic properties of current antidepressants. However, analysis of the preclinical evidence indicates that most conventional "anxiolytic" drug tests are not sensitive to antidepressants. Such dissociation is not surprising because of the traditional approach to validation of preclinical tests that is to a large extent based on establishing face validity as well as sensitivity to benzodiazepine anxiolytics. The present review argues for extending the cognitive model of antidepressant drug action to cover their anxiolytic properties as well. Such an approach is based on ambiguity or uncertainty in a broad sense as the hallmark of human stress that has different expressions ready for experimental modeling. These possibilities include scheduleinduced behaviors that are directly based on intermittent reinforcement, conditioning to ambiguous stimuli, social stress where agonistic confrontations are possible but not predictable or controlled by the subject, and an even larger class of behaviors that are critically dependent on the inhibition of the prepotent responses in exchange for the ambiguous possibility of a later gain in reinforcement. Interestingly, in all these cases, antidepressant drug treatment is clearly effective in preclinical laboratory settings. One of the cognitive functions that appears to be affected by antidepressant drugs is inhibitory control. Inhibition of prepotent responding has beneficial effects in the "uncertainty" stress situations discussed above and therefore it is this cognitive function that may be critical for anxiolytic effects of antidepressants and novel anxiolytic drug development. © Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009.




Bespalov, A. Y., van Gaalen, M. M., & Gross, G. (2010). Antidepressant treatment in anxiety disorders. Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences. Springer Verlag.

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