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The ability to match individual patients to tailored treatments has the potential to greatly improve outcomes for individuals suffering from major depression. In particular, while the vast majority of antidepressant treatments affect either serotonin or noradrenaline or a combination of these two neurotransmitters, it is not known whether there are particular patients or symptom profiles which respond preferentially to the potentiation of serotonin over noradrenaline or vice versa. Experimental medicine models suggest that the primary mode of action of these treatments may be to remediate negative biases in emotional processing. Such models may provide a useful framework for interrogating the specific actions of antidepressants. Here, we therefore review evidence from studies examining the effects of drugs which potentiate serotonin, noradrenaline or a combination of both neurotransmitters on emotional processing. These results suggest that antidepressants targeting serotonin and noradrenaline may have some specific actions on emotion and reward processing which could be used to improve tailoring of treatment or to understand the effects of dual-reuptake inhibition. Specifically, serotonin may be particularly important in alleviating distress symptoms, while noradrenaline may be especially relevant to anhedonia. The data reviewed here also suggest that noradrenergic-based treatments may have earlier effects on emotional memory that those which affect serotonin.

Original publication




Journal article


J Psychopharmacol

Publication Date





719 - 731


Depression, antidepressants, emotional blunting, emotional memory, emotional processing, noradrenaline, reward, serotonin, Animals, Antidepressive Agents, Depressive Disorder, Major, Emotions, Humans, Norepinephrine, Serotonin