Early effects of duloxetine on emotion recognition in healthy volunteers

Susan Bamford, Ian Penton-Voak, Verity Pinkney, David S Baldwin, Marcus R Munafò, Matthew Garner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


The serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) duloxetine is an effective treatment for major depression and generalised anxiety disorder. Neuropsychological models of antidepressant drug action suggest therapeutic effects might be mediated by the early correction of maladaptive biases in emotion processing, including the recognition of emotional expressions. Sub-chronic administration of duloxetine (for two weeks) produces adaptive changes in neural circuitry implicated in emotion processing; however, its effects on emotional expression recognition are unknown. Forty healthy participants were randomised to receive either 14 days of duloxetine (60 mg/day, titrated from 30 mg after three days) or matched placebo (with sham titration) in a double-blind, between-groups, repeated-measures design. On day 0 and day 14 participants completed a computerised emotional expression recognition task that measured sensitivity to the six primary emotions. Thirty-eight participants (19 per group) completed their course of tablets and were included in the analysis. Results provide evidence that duloxetine, compared to placebo, may reduce the accurate recognition of sadness. Drug effects were driven by changes in participants' ability to correctly detect subtle expressions of sadness, with greater change observed in the placebo relative to the duloxetine group. These effects occurred in the absence of changes in mood. Our preliminary findings require replication, but complement recent evidence that sadness recognition is a therapeutic target in major depression, and a mechanism through which SNRIs could resolve negative biases in emotion processing to achieve therapeutic effects.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Psychopharmacology
Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2015

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2015.

Structured keywords

  • Brain and Behaviour
  • Cognitive Science
  • Social Cognition
  • Tobacco and Alcohol


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