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The neurokinin-1 (NK(1)) receptor antagonist, aprepitant, showed activity in several animal models of depression; however, its efficacy in clinical trials was disappointing. There is little knowledge of the role of NK(1) receptors in human emotional behaviour to help explain this discrepancy. The aim of the current study was to assess the effects of a single oral dose of aprepitant (125 mg) on models of emotional processing sensitive to conventional antidepressant drug administration in 38 healthy volunteers, randomly allocated to receive aprepitant or placebo in a between groups double blind design. Performance on measures of facial expression recognition, emotional categorisation, memory and attentional visual-probe were assessed following the drug absorption. Relative to placebo, aprepitant improved recognition of happy facial expressions and increased vigilance to emotional information in the unmasked condition of the visual probe task. In contrast, aprepitant impaired emotional memory and slowed responses in the facial expression recognition task suggesting possible deleterious effects on cognition. These results suggest that while antagonism of NK(1) receptors does affect emotional processing in humans, its effects are more restricted and less consistent across tasks than those of conventional antidepressants. Human models of emotional processing may provide a useful means of assessing the likely therapeutic potential of new treatments for depression.

Original publication




Journal article


J Psychopharmacol

Publication Date





481 - 487


Administration, Oral, Adolescent, Adult, Affect, Antidepressive Agents, Attention, Brain, Cognition, Double-Blind Method, Emotions, Facial Expression, Female, Humans, Male, Memory, Middle Aged, Morpholines, Neurokinin-1 Receptor Antagonists, Perceptual Masking, Reaction Time, Receptors, Neurokinin-1, Recognition (Psychology), Young Adult