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Published on: April 19, 2015
by Madlan Davies for The Daily Mail:
You don’t need to pop a pill to treat depression, seeing a therapist can help too, researchers claim.
A new study found has that psychotherapy, rather than drugs, can ‘re-wire’ the brains of people suffering the condition.
Researchers found eight weeks of the treatment – or ‘talk therapy’ – can correct some of the hyperactivity that occurs in the brain due to the illness.
Brain-imaging technologies have shown that the brains of people who have depression look different than those of people without the condition.
The parts of the brain involved in mood, thinking, sleep, appetite, and behavior appear different.
And people with depression show hyperactivity in certain regions of the brain.
This means there are increased connections between areas of the brain, and they have electrical signals that can’t shut off.
‘The human brain responds to depression. Patients typically show hyperactivity particularly in the amygdala, the striatum and other limbic regions’, Dr Svenja Taubner, of the University of Kassel, said.
The German psychologists wanted to find out if psychotherapy could re-wire the brain and correct this hyperactivity.
They recruited 18 patients with depression – who were not taking medication – and scanned their brains on two separate occasions.
They also scanned the brains of a control group of 17 healthy people.
The researchers used individual, personalised ‘trigger’ sentences to provoke a reaction in each participant.
They said things such as ‘You wish to be accepted by others, therefore you do a lot for them’, which would have induced a response in each of the people in the study.
They looked at brain scans while reading these trigger sentences before and after psychotherapy.
Before the treatment, the sentences triggered hyperactivity in certain regions of the brain.
But, after eight weeks of psychotherapy, the patients’ brains did not react in the same way to the stimuli.
Researchers hope to carry out a follow up study after 20 months of treatment.
Worldwide, more than 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression, according to World Health Organisation figures.
It is is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and contributes to the global burden of disease.
Meanwhile, prescriptions for anti-depressants have more than trebled since 1998 in the world’s richest countries, a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found.
In the UK prescription rates of anti-depressants are soaring – from 15 million in 1998 to 40 million in 2012.
Some 62 per cent of depression sufferers are now treated with drugs.
However, many anti-depressants have side effects including nausea, a dry mouth, blurring of vision, constipation, dizziness, drowsiness, insomnia and sexual dysfunction.
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