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High-Precision MRI Finds Physical Source of Depression

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of the brain can help predict the response to antidepressant treatment.

Predicting the effectiveness of antidepressant treatment would be possible through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) observation of the brain, according to the results of a study published in the medical journal Brain. MRI tests in east Delhi provides a precise response to the 90% treatment response.


During the study, the researchers observed that brain activity in the event of errors on a cognitive task is related to the response to MRI treatment. In fact, patients who display the most activity in two brain networks in the event of an error while performing a cognitive task are less likely to respond to antidepressant treatments.

Depression: magnetic resonance imaging to verify the effectiveness of treatment

Brain imaging techniques work. However, it is impossible to think of using them always to verify the effect of psychotherapy.

In recent weeks, a well-recognized journal has published an interesting study which shows that it is possible to evaluate the goodness of psychotherapy through magnetic resonance imaging. A research that, according to the authors, will lead in the future to use brain imaging to identify the best treatment of depression in every single patient is far from being a reality.

Depression: the triggers

Today we know that depression arises from a combination of biological factors - such as genetics - and psychological and environmental factors. These include stress, social problems, difficulties in interpersonal relationships, a tendency to overestimate the negative aspects and minimize the positive ones, etc. For a person with a high biological predisposition, minimal adverse external events are enough to generate a depressive episode.

Photographing alterations

The combination of these triggering factors leads to the development of depression: change in mood, alterations in sleep, reduction in interests, alterations in appetite, and reduction of energy are just some of the symptoms. Beyond the triggering cause is the brain. In depression, real structural and physiological changes occur. Modifications that can be "photographed" thanks to imaging techniques such as functional magnetic resonance. Alterations that, with an integrated approach between psychotherapy and the use of drugs, can improve - as well as the symptoms of the depressed person until they disappear entirely.

A little sustainable hypothesis

The study in question has exploited this knowledge by photographing the changes of a depressed brain that gradually returns to normal functioning when psychotherapy begins to function. However, we see difficult applications in clinical practice. At the moment, it would not be feasible to make a functional MRI to see if a patient responds to psychotherapy or a drug. It is, in fact, much simpler - and less expensive - to evaluate the answer with more traditional methods, which is talking with the patients and observing the change in their thoughts and feelings. MRI test labs are waiting for some hi-tech company to find a way to make a smartphone capable of performing an MRI.

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