Antidepressant Pharmacotherapy and Poststroke Motor Rehabilitation: A Review of Neurophysiologic Mechanisms and Clinical Relevance

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Brain Circ


According to the National Stroke Association, stroke is the leading cause of adult disability in the United States, where it is estimated that about 795,000 strokes occur on an annual basis. Minimizing the disability burden of a stroke routinely involves behavioral therapies such as physical and occupational therapy, as well as pharmacologic interventions. The positive effect of antidepressants on functional outcomes for patients with poststroke depression is well known and practiced. In the past 15 years, a growing body of evidence has demonstrated that antidepressant pharmacotherapy and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors specifically have a role in the functional recovery from strokes even in the nondepressed population. The mechanisms by which antidepressants improve motor recovery following stroke are multifactorial, but it is clear that the process involves augmentation of cerebral blood flow, cortical excitation, and potentiation of neural growth factors all resulting in enhancement of neurogeneration. This review will examine the existing evidence and mechanisms behind antidepressant use for motor recovery in stroke patients and discuss the major human clinical trials that have been conducted surrounding this topic. The evidence clearly suggests that antidepressants have a positive impact on poststroke functional recovery regardless of the presence of depression, and although large-scale randomized, controlled trials are still ongoing, antidepressants are emerging as a promising pharmaceutical means of actively lessening the burden of disability following stroke.


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