Brain Scan Hints at Best Treatment for Depression

By  , everydayHealth
Jun 13, 2013

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Brain scanning and computer imaging

A new study has found that a brain scan may provide help in determining the best course of action for patients with depression. The course of action could be therapy or antidepressants. Depression can leave a negative impact on your life and figuring out which would the best treatment that will work for you can be time-consuming and annoying. According to this small study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, there may be a way to get past the inefficiency of trial-and-error and figure out which course of treatment will confer the most benefit.

Researchers have identified a biomarker with the help of a brain scan that indicates whether patients who need treatment to deal with depression would be better off undergoing psychotherapy or using antidepressants. Helen Mayberg, MD, study author and researcher with Emory University in Atlanta has said that the primary goal for this study was to develop reliable biomarkers that match an individual patient to the treatment option.

For this research, the scientists conducted brain scans on 63 patients before starting any treatment, and then compared the brain activity of the patients for about 12 weeks. While doing this research, it has been found that high activity on one specific area of the brain known as the anterior insula signaled that the patients would benefit from antidepressants over psychotherapy, whereas low activity in the area indicated the opposite.

But according to David M. Reiss, MD, a psychiatrist based in San Diego, combining treatments is likely a better option. The researchers also admitted that the findings are still preliminary, and said it’s too early to recommend brain scans for patients with depression prior to treatment.

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