Escitalopram and Memory: How It Affects the Brain

Medically Reviewed

The drug escitalopram is known by its brand name Lexapro, a prescription medicine that is used to treat major depression and generalized anxiety disorder. As a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), it is one of the top five psychiatric medications prescribed in the United States. There were 38 million prescriptions written for it in 2018.

You may have some questions about how escitalopram affects the brain and  memory. While there is very little information about that, some studies have been conducted that might be useful in better understanding of how the drug works overall, and particularly in the brain.

How Escitalopram Affects the Brain

As a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medication, escitalopram works to increase the serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is one of the chemical messengers that transmit signals between the neurons or nerve cells in the brain.

Escitalopram is called an SSRI because it mainly affects serotonin. An SSRI stops the reuptake of serotonin into the neurons, which allows more available serotonin to be taken in by other nerves. This is where the feeling of “all is well” originates when taking an SSRI medicine.

A  2014 study sheds some light on how Lexapro affects the brain. The study’s researchers relay, “In a small study of healthy volunteers, researchers found that a single dose of the antidepressant escitalopram (Lexapro) seemed to temporarily reduce ‘connectivity’ among clusters of brain cells in most regions of the brain.”

The study also found that SSRIs like escitalopram have side effects on the brain, and connectivity is immediate.

Escitalopram and Memory

So how does escitalopram affect your memory?

Some prescription antidepressants have been found to interfere with or cause memory loss. It has also been noted that escitalopram might reduce the level of sodium in the blood of people who are age 65 and older.

Miniature men in hazmat suits handling giant white pillsLow sodium levels can cause memory problems or confusion. If someone takes too much of the drug, it may also cause forgetfulness.

In another study, researchers at Loyola University Medical Center learned that when treating patients with the depression medicine Lexapro or escitalopram, it caused levels of two neurotoxic compounds connected with dementia to drop markedly.

This could mean the medication might be used to prevent memory loss.

Escitalopram is a well-tolerated medication, as is Lexapro. It may be viewed as one that slows down the functioning of the brain by the medical community.

It is not linked with short-term memory loss, and various study results are not concrete about its effects on the brain.

If you’re concerned about how it affects the brain, or how it might affect you, please consult with your doctor.

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