Brain scans could help determine if your therapy or medication is helping your depression.

hypnotherapy for depression

Can Brain scans really show us the best treatment for depression?

We know that depression affects many people in the world today and whether it is on the increase may have more to do with more people not being afraid to seek help. Perhaps the stigma is being lifted slowly? well, perhaps for the sufferer at least.

we also know that through recent studies, that a lot of medications simply don’t work or are extremely ineffective for some patients. In fact remission rates through using medication alone is somewhere in the region of 40%.

There have also been studies looking into the effectiveness of anti depressants along side placebo drugs, with the placebo coming out equally well as the prescribed medication. Although there has also been conflicting reports that and study which state the opposite.

There are various talk therapies to help with depression, with CBT (Cognitive behavioural therapy) being one of the treatments of choice within the NHS in the UK. Although, some patients don’t always respond well to CBT.

So, a new study was brought in to suggest that brain imaging may hold the key to what is more effective as a treatment for depression. Personally, I believe that both meds and therapy combined have the best possible chance for remission, but lets look at what was discovered.

PET scanners where used in the study to examine the activity within the brains of 63 people, all suffering with depression. The age of the volunteers ranged between 18 years old and 60 years old. The scans could measure the amount of glucose in the brain, which is an indication of good brain function within the brain cells.

The subjects were then either asked to take their medication in the form of escitalopram oxalate or a course of CBT for 12 weeks.

There is a part of the brain called the Insula which transmits our visceral responses into perceptions and is in some way linked to the perceptions or thought processes in depressed people. This level of activity present in the Insula was also linked in how well people responded to certain treatments. There were those subjects attending CBT, who exhibited less responses of activity in the anterior part of the Insula, which indicated a better chance of remission using the therapy but a lesser chance of remission with the medication.

This result was completely reversed in those subjects who exhibited a higher activity within the Insula, these subjects had a better chance of remission using the medication and far less using the therapy.

Now there were really only 38 people who returned clear-cut results so we have to be a little bit open minded about this, there were others who showed no signs of improvement.

What shall we make of all this? well, I am not really drawing any conclusion as the study group was so small but it may indicate that different brains respond differently to different treatments and how do we know what is correct for each brain without a scan?

The downside is that the scans are very expensive, well over £1000 per scan and I can’t see the NHS forking out this kind of money on mental health, which is a real shame. The other downside is the exposure to the radiation of the scans.

I would love the study to expand into larger groups so we can make a full evaluation, because in the long run, it may actually turn out to be financially viable. Depression costs the country millions of pounds a year in lost time at work, benefits and the treatment. So maybe there is a need for this kind of approach, it actually could save the country a lot of money, but far more important than that, it may help people overcome depression far quicker than in the past by indicating the correct course of treatment for each patient.

Image courtesy of [MR LIGHTMAN] /