Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Predicting how patients respond to therapy: Brain scans could help doctors choose treatments for people with social anxiety disorder

Date:
September 6, 2012
Source:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Summary:
A new study has found that brain scans of patients with social anxiety disorder can help predict whether they will benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy.

Social anxiety patients with more activity in visual processing areas, left, when viewing images of angry faces, responded better to subsequent cognitive behavioral therapy than patients with lower activity in those regions.
Credit: Satrajit Ghosh and Susan Whitfield-Gabrieli

A new study led by MIT neuroscientists has found that brain scans of patients with social anxiety disorder can help predict whether they will benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy.

Social anxiety is usually treated with either cognitive behavioral therapy or medications. However, it is currently impossible to predict which treatment will work best for a particular patient. The team of researchers from MIT, Boston University (BU) and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) found that the effectiveness of therapy could be predicted by measuring patients' brain activity as they looked at photos of faces, before the therapy sessions began.

The findings, published this week in the Archives of General Psychiatry, may help doctors choose more effective treatments for social anxiety disorder, which is estimated to affect around 15 million people in the United States.

"Our vision is that some of these measures might direct individuals to treatments that are more likely to work for them," says John Gabrieli, the Grover M. Hermann Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT, a member of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research and senior author of the paper.

Lead authors of the paper are MIT postdoc Oliver Doehrmann and Satrajit Ghosh, a research scientist in the McGovern Institute.

Choosing treatments

Sufferers of social anxiety disorder experience intense fear in social situations that interferes with their ability to function in daily life. Cognitive behavioral therapy aims to change the thought and behavior patterns that lead to anxiety. For social anxiety disorder patients, that might include learning to reverse the belief that others are watching or judging them.

The new paper is part of a larger study that MGH and BU ran recently on cognitive behavioral therapy for social anxiety, led by Mark Pollack, director of the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders at MGH, and Stefan Hofmann, director of the Social Anxiety Program at BU.

"This was a chance to ask if these brain measures, taken before treatment, would be informative in ways above and beyond what physicians can measure now, and determine who would be responsive to this treatment," Gabrieli says.

Currently doctors might choose a treatment based on factors such as ease of taking pills versus going to therapy, the possibility of drug side effects, or what the patient's insurance will cover. "From a science perspective there's very little evidence about which treatment is optimal for a person," Gabrieli says.

The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to image the brains of patients before and after treatment. There have been many imaging studies showing brain differences between healthy people and patients with neuropsychiatric disorders, but so far imaging has not been established as a way to predict patients' responses to particular treatments.

Measuring brain activity

In the new study, the researchers measured differences in brain activity as patients looked at images of angry or neutral faces. After 12 weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy, patients' social anxiety levels were tested. The researchers found that patients who had shown a greater difference in activity in high-level visual processing areas during the face-response task showed the most improvement after therapy.

The findings are an important step toward improving doctors' ability to choose the right treatment for psychiatric disorders, says Greg Siegle, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh. "It's really critical that somebody do this work, and they did it very well," says Siegle, who was not part of the research team. "It moves the field forward, and brings psychology into more of a rigorous science, using neuroscience to distinguish between clinical cases that at first appear homogeneous."

Gabrieli says it's unclear why activity in brain regions involved with visual processing would be a good predictor of treatment outcome. One possibility is that patients who benefited more were those whose brains were already adept at segregating different types of experiences, Gabrieli says.

The researchers are now planning a follow-up study to investigate whether brain scans can predict differences in response between cognitive behavioral therapy and drug treatment.

"Right now, all by itself, we're just giving somebody encouraging or discouraging news about the likely outcome" of therapy, Gabrieli says. "The really valuable thing would be if it turns out to be differentially sensitive to different treatment choices."

The research was funded by the Poitras Center for Affective Disorders Research and the National Institute of Mental Health.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The original article was written by Anne Trafton. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Doehrmann O, Ghosh SS, Polli FE, et al. Predicting Treatment Response in Social Anxiety Disorder From Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Archives of General Psychiatry, 2012; DOI: 10.1001/2013.jamapsychiatry.5

Cite This Page:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Predicting how patients respond to therapy: Brain scans could help doctors choose treatments for people with social anxiety disorder." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 September 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120906123322.htm>.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (2012, September 6). Predicting how patients respond to therapy: Brain scans could help doctors choose treatments for people with social anxiety disorder. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120906123322.htm
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Predicting how patients respond to therapy: Brain scans could help doctors choose treatments for people with social anxiety disorder." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120906123322.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Newsy (July 30, 2014) Researchers say women who diet at a young age are at greater risk of developing harmful health habits, including eating disorders and alcohol abuse. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

Newsy (July 29, 2014) If you've been looking for love online, there's a chance somebody has been looking at how you're looking. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

Newsy (July 29, 2014) Researchers have found certain facial features can make us seem more attractive or trustworthy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. 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:
from the past week

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