The most common type of antidepressants alters moral judgement, says a study led by Gates scholar Molly Crockett.
The new research is published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Crockett and her team from the University of Cambridge’s Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute, discovered that healthy volunteers given drugs which increase their serotonin, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), have an increased aversion to harming others, viewing such actions as morally forbidden.
Molly said: “Our study suggests that these medications can affect people’s sense of right and wrong, which influences the choices they make in everyday life.
“Interestingly, the drug’s effects were strongest in people who were naturally high in empathy, suggesting that serotonin could enhance people’s concern for others by making the prospect of harming them feel worse.”
Crockett is originally from California and began her PhD in Experimental Psychology at Cambridge in 2006, funded by a Gates scholarship
Her research explores the neural mechanisms of human motivation and decision-making under the supervision. She is particularly focused on how serotonin influences decision-making in social contexts.