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Cognitive therapy or medication? Brain scans may help personalize treatments

Predicting How Patients Respond to Therapy (press release):

“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.. “Our vision is that some of these measures might direct individuals to treatments that are more likely to work for them”…  “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.”

Study: Predicting Treatment Response in Social Anxiety Disorder From Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (Archives of General Psychiatry). From the abstract:

  • Results: Pretreatment responses significantly predicted subsequent treatment outcome of patients selectively for social stimuli and particularly in regions of higher-order visual cortex. Combining the brain measures with information on clinical severity accounted for more than 40% of the variance in treatment response and substantially exceeded predictions based on clinical measures at baseline. Prediction success was unaffected by testing for potential confounding factors such as depression severity at baseline.
  • Conclusions: The results suggest that brain imaging can provide biomarkers that substantially improve predictions for the success of cognitive behavioral interventions and more generally suggest that such biomarkers may offer evidence-based, personalized medicine approaches for optimally selecting among treatment options for a patient.

To Learn More about the Future of Personalized Medicine & the Brain:

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