A test to show who will benefit from talk therapy


Brain scans of patients with social anxiety disorder can help predict whether they will benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy.

With the cost of these treatments increasing, having a way to know in advance if they will be successful can help increase the likelihood of success and lessen wasted funding.

Hard to know which treatment is best

Social anxiety may be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy or medication. It is impossible to know which a person will respond to for their particular condition. A team from MIT, Boston University and Massachusetts General Hospital found that the effectiveness of therapy could be predicted by measuring patients’ brain activity as they looked at photos of faces, before the therapy sessions began.

“Our vision is that some of these measures might direct individuals to treatments that are more likely to work for them,” said John Gabrieli, the Grover M. Hermann Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT.

When CBT works, it helps to change thought patterns

People who suffer from social anxiety disorder live with fear in social situations that will often interfere with their ability to function normally. Cognitive behavior therapy changes the thought and behavior patterns that create the anxiety so that a patient can live a normal life.

fMRI might show which brain will respond better to CBT

Researchers measured differences in brain activity as patients looked at images of people’s faces. After 12 weeks of therapy, the anxiety levels were tested. Patients who had shown a greater difference in activity in high-level visual processing areas during the face-response task were more likely to respond to talk therapy.

“The really valuable thing,” Gabrieli concluded, “would be if it turns out to be differentially sensitive to different treatment choices.”

Source: MIT, MedicalNewsToday


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