An estimated 65% of stroke survivors experience some weakness or paralysis of their limbs, and difficulty in walking and moving due to the death of brain cells from lack of blood flow. While it is know that earlier the rehabilitation starts for stroke victims, better is the recovery, a new study has revealed that a commonly prescribed antidepressant may help stroke survivors improve movement and coordination even when rehabilitation after the stroke incidents gets a little delayed. Researchers observed that the drug fluoxetine, often sold under the trade name Prozac, prolongs the time after a stroke during which physical therapy remains effective for recovering lost motor function.
Lead author of the study Steven Zeiler, assistant professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Maryland, US, said, "For rehabilitation to be effective, it needs to start as soon after a stroke as possible. But with this study, we have shown that in mice, we can extend the time period during which rehabilitative intervention has an effect on meaningful recovery."
When the research team administered fluoxetine daily to the mice beginning 24 hours after inducing stroke, the mice recovered the ability to do the learned task even if they started rehab after a week's delay. The team believes that the drug changed the way the brains of the mice responded to retraining.
Zeiler said, "We believe the drug is changing the way individual neurons are responding to sensory input after the stroke. Time still matters; it is key." The study mice that fully recovered motor function were started on fluoxetine immediately after the induced stroke. Howebver, if fluoxetine administration was delayed by one week after stroke, instead of 24 hours, the mice did not fully recover.
The findings were detailed in Stroke.