This is how psychotherapy for depression changes the brain

By: Ellie Panicola

Aim: Cynthia Fu and Anjali Sankar at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience in London and the University of East London wanted to research about how the brain changes for patients going to psychotherapy for depression.

Procedure: Fu and Sankar had 5 participants and from them they gathered about these participants hinted at some consistent patterns, such as decreased amygdala activity after therapy when looking at both emotional and more neutral stimuli, but there were also occasional results that were harder to understand. For example, one study showed more activation in hippocampus areas while another study found less activation in the very same region. They were not surprised by this inconsistency because it was the very early stages of any experiment like this. To continue their experiment they had volunteers with depression look at emotional images in the brain scanner before and after they went to psychotherapy. 

Results: From these five participants the results showed that after psychotherapy patients with major depression showed less activation in the left precentral gyrus. This area is in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which is involved in thinking and reflective processes. People who are depressed exhibit more activity in this area during emotional tasks, but from these results it shows that psychotherapy helped the participants over-thinking and negative thoughts.

Analysis: This experiment was important to conduct because it is important to know it psychotherapy is actually helping people. It was a valid and ethical experiment, but since it was the first time this experiment has ever really been done there were some inconsistencies. Since one study showed less activation in an area and then another study found more activation in the same area it can be concerning, but to fix this they will just have to do the experiment several more times to see if they are getting true results.

Source: https://digest.bps.org.uk/2018/11/06/this-is-how-psychotherapy-for-depression-changes-the-brain/



One thought on “This is how psychotherapy for depression changes the brain

  1. Definitely a very interesting study. It was a very small sample and not a lot of research but it was a good starting place for this research. This is important work and I want to see more studies looking in to it.


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