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Effect of escitalopram on the processing of emotional faces.

Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research
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  • Biology
  • Design


Serotonin has been implicated in the neurobiology of depressive and anxiety disorders, but little is known about its role in the modulation of basic emotional processing. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, escitalopram, on the perception of facial emotional expressions. Twelve healthy male volunteers completed two experimental sessions each, in a randomized, balanced order, double-blind design. A single oral dose of escitalopram (10 mg) or placebo was administered 3 h before the task. Participants were presented to a task composed of six basic emotions (anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise) that were morphed between neutral and each standard emotion in 10% steps. Escitalopram facilitated the recognition of sadness and inhibited the recognition of happiness in male, but not female faces. No drug effect on subjective measures was detected. These results confirm that serotonin modulates the recognition of emotional faces, and suggest that the gender of the face can have a role in this modulation. Further studies including female volunteers are needed.

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