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Research suggests a popular antidepressant may also prove an effective treatment for a type of visual impairment.
Scientists have found that fluoxetine, marketed as Prozac, can rejuvenate nerve cells linked to vision in the brains of adult rats.
The drug returned the neurons to the more “plastic” state of their youth, allowing the test subjects to recover from previous damage which affected the animals’ sight.
The findings, reported in the journal Science, suggest the possibility of using Prozac to treat adult amblyopia, known as “lazy eye”.
The condition causes one eye to become weaker than the other because it is not used enough in early childhood.
The research also provides clues to unanswered questions about the way antidepressants regulate mood, suggesting that brain plasticity may be involved.
Scientists from Italy and Finland gave regular doses of fluoxetine to adult rats whose sight had been impaired through lack of exposure to visual images during a critical period of early development.
They detected changes in gene activity and electrical signalling indicating that the treatment had returned the visual parts of the brain to a more plastic, youthful state
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