Using an experimental medicine model to explore combination effects of pharmacological and cognitive interventions for depression and anxiety.
Browning M., Grol M., Ly V., Goodwin GM., Holmes EA., Harmer CJ.
Selective serotonergic reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and cognitive therapies are effective in the treatment of anxiety and depression. Previous research suggests that both forms of treatments may work by altering cognitive biases in the processing of affective information. The current study assessed the effects of combining an SSRI with a cognitive intervention on measures of affective processing bias and resilience to external challenge. A total of 62 healthy participants were randomly assigned to receive either 7 days of citalopram (20 mg) or placebo capsules while also completing either an active or a control version of a computerized cognitive bias training task. After treatment, standard measures of affective processing bias were collected. Participants' resilience to external stress was also tested by measuring the increase in negative symptoms induced by a negative mood induction. Participants who received both citalopram and the active cognitive bias training task showed a smaller alteration in emotional memory and categorization bias than did those who received either active intervention singly. The degree to which memory for negative information was altered by citalopram predicted participants' resistance to the negative mood induction. These results suggest that co-administration of an SSRI and a cognitive training intervention can reduce the effectiveness of either treatment alone in terms of anxiety- and depression-relevant emotional processing. More generally, the findings suggest that pinpointing the cognitive actions of treatments may inform future development of combination strategies in mental health.