Therapy or Medication for Treating Depression: Which is More Effective?

Fagjun | Published 2017-03-27 21:32

Antidepressants may not always be the best way to treat depression. The same goes for psychotherapy.

There are specific brain activity patterns that can determine which of therapy or medication will work for treating depression.

There are varied types and degrees of depression that need specific treatment. Depression treatments are therefore not a one-size-fits-all deal. Presently, depression treatments take a patient's preferences—psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both—into account. However, previous studies have shown that a more personalized approach to treating depression may be more effective. This means that a patient's biological characteristics may hold more weight than a patient's symptoms or preferences.

A new study now claims that identifying brain activity patterns in brain scans may serve as a better guideline for depression treatments.

The Role of Brain Scans in Treating depression

Researchers assigned patients to 12 weeks of treatment. One group took one of two medications, while the other group underwent cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a “talking therapy” that aims to treat depression symptoms by helping patients change the way they think and act.

Before the treatments began, participants had to undergo a MRI scan so researchers can figure out patterns in their brain activity. An analysis of the scans will determine if the results of either form of treatment depended on the state of the brain prior to treatment itself.

The researchers determined that connectivity between four specific areas of the brain can influence the outcome of depression treatment. Positive connectivity between these areas indicates that CBT will be more effective. Meanwhile, absent or negative connectivity indicates that antidepressant medication will be more effective in treating depression.

A More Effective Treatment Plan

With the help of the brain scans, the researchers were able to match patients with treatments that will likely benefit them best. The study also showed that a patient's preference for a certain treatment does not guarantee that that treatment will work. The participants also came from diverse backgrounds, so ethnicity, age, and gender are weak determinants of a treatment's effectiveness too.

Brain scans are therefore more likely to predict the positive outcome of treating depression. This study may be beneficial to patients who are struggling to overcome their symptoms.

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