The review of more than 40 studies shows a strong indication of the effectiveness of psychotherapy. This includes patients with medical depressive disorder, OCD, PTSD, and other diagnoses. To find the connection between the cure and the psychotherapy treatment, various techniques were implemented. Some studies used structural brain imaging, which displays brain anatomy, while others used functional scans that demonstrate brain activity for the analysis. In the brain imaging approach, the researcher analyzed brain imaging scans to predict psychotherapy outcomes for major depressive and anxiety disorders. Also, psychiatrists are interested in identifying brain imaging marks of response for the psychotherapy treatment compared with electrocardiograms and laboratory tests.
Responsible Areas of the Brain
Researchers cannot identify a specific brain area that was consistently associated with response to psychotherapy. The results did identify some “candidate markers,” which suggests that psychotherapy might be related to activity in two deep brain areas.
- Amygdala: involved in mood responses and emotional memories
- Anterior insula: involved in awareness of the body’s physiologic state, anxiety responses, and feelings of disgust.
In the case of medical depressive disorder, patients with higher activity in the amygdala were more likely to respond to psychotherapy. In contrast, in some studies, the response to psychotherapy is higher for the lower anterior insula activity in anxiety disorders and more moderate activity in medical depressive disorder.
Another study shows that the anterior cingulate cortex, which is the frontal brain area plays a critical role in regulating emotions when linked psychotherapy response. Whereas, for medical depressive disorder patients, most of the evidence suggests that lower activity in some parts of the anterior cingulate cortex were more likely to have outcomes with psychotherapy.
All these reports indicate that the studies on psychotherapy response need to focus further on these individual regions of the brain. We need to give attention to further investigations on the pre-treatment functional connectivity between these individual regions. Also, the affective experience is modulated via reciprocal connections between brain areas such as the anterior cingulate cortex and the amygdala.
The researchers emphasize the limitations of current evidence on neuro-imaging markers of psychotherapy response. The analysis based on the methodology and the outcomes indicate that the results are highly variable. Further studies are required to assess the performance of potential neuroimaging markers over time. It will help the doctors to predict which patients will respond better to medications versus psychotherapy. They might be integrated with clinical features to improve outcomes for treatments of patients with depression and anxiety disorders.