GradImpact: Research to Better Understand How Antidepressants Affect Fetal Development

    Juan Velasquez, a recent doctoral recipient in neuroscience at the University of Southern California, was awarded a prestigious Chateaubriand Fellowship to study how antidepressants affect fetal development during pregnancy. Somewhere between 12-18% of women experience depression at some point during the course of their pregnancy. Scientists, including Dr. Velasquez, are researching selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a class of antidepressants increasingly prescribed to treat depression in pregnant women, and their effects during fetal development.

     

    Understand the importance of Dr. Velasquez’s work requires a basic understanding of how SSRIs work. Depression is linked to the way chemicals, specifically serotonin, in your brain operate. Researchers believe that an imbalance of serotonin contributes to things like depression, anxiety, and stress. By taking SSRIs, patients alter their brain chemistry to balance levels of serotonin. One of the questions Dr. Velasquez wants to answer is whether changes in a pregnant woman’s brain chemistry can affect the fetus. How would it affect a fetus? The same way a fetus gets its nourishment among other things: through the placenta.

     

    Early results from Dr. Velasquez’s research indicate that SSRIs do cross the placenta and affect the fetal brain, and other studies have shown that taking antidepressants during pregnancy can increase the risk of things like autism and ADHD. However, not treating depression during pregnancy is not an answer Dr. Velasquez will accept. He is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and continues to study this process to ensure the health of both the fetus and the mother. To learn more about Juan’s work visit the USC Graduate School YouTube Channel.

     

    Visit the GradImpact Feature Gallery to learn more about the amazing, innovative research being done by graduate students and alumni across the world.

     

    The CGS GRADIMPACT project draws from member examples to tell the larger story of graduate education. Our goal is to demonstrate the importance of graduate education not only to degree holders, but also to the communities where we live and work. Do you have a great story to share about the impact of master’s or doctoral education? Visit our WEBSITE for more information.

     

    CGS is the leading source of information, data analysis, and trends in graduate education. Our benchmarking data help member institutions to assess performance in key areas, make informed decisions, and develop plans that are suited to their goals.
    CGS Best Practice initiatives address common challenges in graduate education by supporting institutional innovations and sharing effective practices with the graduate community. Our programs have provided millions of dollars of support for improvement and innovation projects at member institutions.
    As the national voice for graduate education, CGS serves as a resource on issues regarding graduate education, research, and scholarship. CGS collaborates with other national stakeholders to advance the graduate education community in the policy and advocacy arenas.  
    CGS is an authority on global trends in graduate education and a leader in the international graduate community. Our resources and meetings on global issues help members internationalize their campuses, develop sustainable collaborations, and prepare their students for a global future.