As per an ongoing search to find effective treatments for mental health disorders, have brought some interesting findings. One of the latest and interesting is from a new study in Translational Psychiatry, which suggests that people who have cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) have measurable changes in the way certain regions of the brain are connected.
Though it is not that surprising, but the results are noteworthy because the participants had more serious mental health issues than are usually the subject of CBT studies. This is the latest in a growing body of evidence suggesting that talk therapy not only has significant and lasting effects on mental health, but that these changes can actually be measured in the brain.
In the recent study, participants, who had been part of earlier research by the same team, allowed themselves to be followed for another eight years. All of the participants had schizophrenia, and all of them took their usual medication or their usual medication with the addition of CBT sessions for six months. At the end of the initial six-month period, the participants’ brains were scanned with an MRI. They also filled out questionnaires about their symptoms over the eight-year study period.
People who had received CBT showed structural changes in their brains, from the beginning to the end of the initial six months, on the other hand people in the medication-only group didn’t have the same changes. There was more neural connectivity between the amygdala, which governs fear and emotion in the brain, and areas in the prefrontal cortex that govern higher-order thinking and executive function. The another finding of the study was that the stronger connectivity between the regions, the better people’s recovery was over the long term (eight years)—in other words, the brain changes that came from CBT were linked to people’s symptoms being significantly improved over the long term. This is in people who started out with the differences in brain structure that are linked to schizophrenia, which makes the results even more striking.
The study is very important as it suggests that people with more significant forms of mental illness can benefit from behavioral therapies like CBT. It also confirms the effectiveness of CBT in general—and it’s certainly not the first to suggest that CBT can bring about significant changes.
According a different research, that this form of therapy can lead to neurological changes for people with other types of mental health issues, like depression and anxiety. A study performed last year found that for people with social anxiety benefited from it, and so did their brains. During the study, people with social anxiety who took an online CBT course for nine weeks reported fewer symptoms of social anxiety, and this reduction was correlated withless volume in the amygdala, the part of the brain that was also affected in the new study.
This is not just about CBT, as studies have shown other forms of psychotherapy may also be at least as effective as medication in treating mental health problems and preventing relapse in the future.