Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Does social anxiety disorder respond to psychotherapy? Brain study says yes

Date:
March 21, 2011
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
When psychotherapy is helping someone get better, what does that change look like in the brain? This was the question a team of psychological scientists set out to investigate in patients suffering from social anxiety disorder.

When psychotherapy is helping someone get better, what does that change look like in the brain? This was the question a team of Canadian psychological scientists set out to investigate in patients suffering from social anxiety disorder. Their findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association of Psychological Science.

Social anxiety is a common disorder, marked by overwhelming fears of interacting with others and expectations of being harshly judged. Medication and psychotherapy both help people with the disorder. But research on the neurological effects of psychotherapy has lagged far behind that on medication-induced changes in the brain.

"We wanted to track the brain changes while people were going through psychotherapy," says McMaster University Ph.D. candidate Vladimir Miskovic, the study's lead author.

To do so, the team -- led by David Moscovitch of the University of Waterloo, collaborating with McMaster's Louis Schmidt, Diane Santesso, and Randi McCabe; and Martin Antony of Ryerson University -- used electroencephalograms, or EEGs, which measure brain electrical interactions in real time. They focused on the amount of "delta-beta coupling," which elevates with rising anxiety.

The study recruited 25 adults with social anxiety disorder from a Hamilton, Ontario clinic. The patients participated in 12 weekly sessions of group cognitive behavior therapy, a structured method that helps people identify -- and challenge -- the thinking patterns that perpetuate their painful and self-destructive behaviors.

Two control groups -- students who tested extremely high or low for symptoms of social anxiety -- underwent no psychotherapy.

The patients were given four EEGs -- two before treatment, one halfway through, and one two weeks after the final session. The researchers collected EEG measures of the participants at rest, and then during a stressful exercise: a short preparation for an impromptu speech on a hot topic, such as capital punishment or same-sex marriage; participants were told the speech would be presented before two people and videotaped. In addition, comprehensive assessments were made of patients' fear and anxiety.

When the patients' pre- and post-therapy EEGs were compared with the control groups', the results were revealing: Before therapy, the clinical group's delta-beta correlations were similar to those of the high-anxiety control group and far higher than the low-anxiety group's. Midway through, improvements in the patients' brains paralleled clinicians' and patients' own reports of easing symptoms. And at the end, the patients' tests resembled those of the low-anxiety control group.

"We can't quite claim that psychotherapy is changing the brain," cautions Miskovic. For one thing, some of the patients were taking medication, and that could confound the results. But the study, funded by the Ontario Mental Health Foundation, is "an important first step" in that direction -- and toward understanding the biology of anxiety and developing better treatments.

The work might also alter perceptions of therapy. "Laypeople tend to think that talk therapy is not 'real,' while they associate medications with hard science, and physiologic change," says Miskovic. "But at the end of the day, the effectiveness of any program must be mediated by the brain and the nervous system. If the brain does not change, there won't be a change in behavior or emotion."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. V. Miskovic, D. A. Moscovitch, D. L. Santesso, R. E. McCabe, M. M. Antony, L. A. Schmidt. Changes in EEG Cross-Frequency Coupling During Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Social Anxiety Disorder. Psychological Science, 2011; DOI: 10.1177/0956797611400914

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Does social anxiety disorder respond to psychotherapy? Brain study says yes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110214142344.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2011, March 21). Does social anxiety disorder respond to psychotherapy? Brain study says yes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110214142344.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Does social anxiety disorder respond to psychotherapy? Brain study says yes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110214142344.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) A new study says the season you're born in can determine your temperament — and one season has a surprising outcome. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Movies Might Desensitize Violence For Parents, Not Just Kids

Movies Might Desensitize Violence For Parents, Not Just Kids

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) A study suggests that parents become desensitized to violent movies as well as children, which leads them to allow their kids to view violent films. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Court Ruling Means Kids' Online Activity Could Be On Parents

Court Ruling Means Kids' Online Activity Could Be On Parents

Newsy (Oct. 17, 2014) In a ruling attorneys for both sides agreed was a first of its kind, a Georgia appeals court said parents can be held liable for what kids put online. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins