– Talk Therapy Causes Distinct Brain Changes
September 17, 2004”NARSAD 2002 Distinguished Investigator, Helen S. Mayberg, M.D., of Emory University (formerly of the Rotman Research Institute), has found that patients who recover from depression with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) “ also known as œtalk therapy? “ show a pattern of brain changes that is distinct from patients who recover with drug therapy.
This study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, provides the first definitive imaging evidence that the brain responds in distinct ways to different treatments. According to Dr. Mayberg, œOur imaging study shows that you can correct the depression network along a variety of pathways. Anti-depressant drugs change the chemical balance in the brain through effects at very specific target sites. Cognitive behavioral therapy also changes brain activity, it™s just tapping into a different component of the same depression circuit board.?
Typically, depression is treated with CBT or other types of psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both. CBT teaches patients strategies for responding differently to emotional provocation. The method focuses on the cortical area of the brain “ where thinking takes place “ to modulate mood states. In contrast, drug therapy alters the chemistry in the brain stem and limbic regions “ the emotion centers “ in order to indirectly effect changes in depressive thinking.
œThe challenge continues to be how to figure out ˜how to best treat™ for what the brain needs,? says Dr. Mayberg. She suggests that brain scans may one day help doctors determine in advance the most effective, individualized, treatment strategies for patients suffering from depression.
In addition to her 2002 Distinguished Investigator Award, NARSAD has funded Dr. Mayberg™s work with a 1991 Young Investigator Award, and a 1995 Independent Investigator Award.