Increased Lower Limb Spasticity but Not Strength or Function Following a Single-Dose Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor in Chronic Stroke

Krishnaj Gourab, Brian D. Schmit, T. George Hornby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Objective To investigate the effects of single doses of a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) on lower limb voluntary and reflex function in individuals with chronic stroke. Design Double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled crossover trial. Setting Outpatient research setting. Participants Individuals (N=10; 7 men; mean age ± SD, 57±10y) with poststroke hemiplegia of >1 year duration who completed all assessments. Interventions Patients were assessed before and 5 hours after single-dose, overencapsulated 10-mg doses of escitalopram (SSRI) or placebo, with 1 week between conditions. Main Outcome Measures Primary assessments included maximal ankle and knee isometric strength, and velocity-dependent (30°/s-120°/s) plantarflexor stretch reflexes under passive conditions, and separately during and after 3 superimposed maximal volitional drive to simulate conditions of increased serotonin release. Secondary measures included clinical measures of lower limb coordination and locomotion. Results SSRI administration significantly increased stretch reflex torques at higher stretch velocities (eg, 90°/s; P=.03), with reflexes at lower velocities enhanced by superimposed voluntary drive (P=.02). No significant improvements were seen in volitional peak torques or in clinical measures of lower limb function (lowest P=.10). Conclusions Increases in spasticity but not strength or lower limb function were observed with single-dose SSRI administration in individuals with chronic stroke. Further studies should evaluate whether repeated dosing of SSRIs, or as combined with specific interventions, is required to elicit significant benefit of these agents on lower limb function poststroke.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2112-2119
Number of pages8
JournalArchives of physical medicine and rehabilitation
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2015


  • Muscle spasticity
  • Muscle strength
  • Rehabilitation
  • Serotonin
  • Stroke

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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