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Scientists Discover Depression Treatment Increases Brain Connectivity

Representative map of the affected connections in the brain. The number of these connections increased after treatment. Credit: Jonathan Repple

Depression treatment increases brain connectivity.

Most scientists believe that the structure of the adult brain is often rigid and incapable of rapid changes. But new research has now revealed that this is not true. In a new study, German scientists have shown that inpatient treatment for depression can lead to an increase in brain connectivity. Also, people who respond well to this treatment show a greater increase in connectivity than those who don’t.

Lead researcher Professor Jonathan Repple, who presented the study at the European Congress of Neuropsychopharmacology in Vienna, said:

“This means that the brain structure of patients with severe clinical depression is not as stable as we thought, and we can improve their brain structure in as little as 6 weeks. We have found that if this treatment leads to an increase in brain connectivity, it is also effective in tackling the symptoms of depression. This means nothing It gives hope to patients who believe that they cannot change and who have to live forever with a disease that is “etched in stone” in their brains.

Depression Treatment Increase in Brain Connections

Graph showing the increase in pre- and post-treatment linkages for clinical depression. Credit: Jonathan Repple

Scientists working at the University of Muenster in Germany studied 109 patients with severe depression (Major Depressive Disorder) and compared them to 55 healthy controls. The participants’ brains were scanned using an established MRI scanner to determine which parts of the brain were communicating with other parts as a way to measure the level of connections in the brain. Patients were then treated for depression, some with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), some with psychological therapy or medication, and some with a combination of all therapies. After treatment, study participants were rescanned using MRI to measure the number of brain connections. They were also retested for signs of depression.

Professor Repple (now Professor of Predictive Psychiatry at the University of Frankfurt) said:

“We found that treatment for depression changed the infrastructure of the brain, which was contrary to previous expectations. Treated patients showed greater numbers of connections than they had before treatment. Also, those who were most responsive to treatment developed more new connections than those who were low responders. There was no time effect in healthy controls. A second screening showing that we have seen something to do with the disease and, more importantly, with its treatment, supports our findings.

“We found that these changes occurred over a period of only about 6 weeks, we were surprised at the speed of response. We have no explanation for how these changes occurred or why they had to occur with such different forms of treatment.”

from Rabdoud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. Eric Ruhe said:

“This is a very interesting and difficult to perform study in which the authors repeated MRI scans to reveal changes in structural connectivity over time in patients treated for depression.

“The results are very much in line with our current belief that the brain (even briefly) has much greater flexibility in adapting than previously thought. Indeed, an important insight into what treatment for depression (and other psychiatric illnesses) leads to is plastic changes over time. has been proposed as a common mechanism for antidepressants, psychotherapy, and electroconvulsive therapy. However, the amount of research is limited to elucidate what changes are necessary or specific for response to treatment or remission of depression. Furthermore, the next question is the possibility of different treatments to specifically alter their targeted brain networks. and vice versa is whether we can use the disturbances in the brain networks measured in this study to choose which treatment would be beneficial.

“It is regrettable that the observed changes over time cannot be attributed to a course of treatment, but as the authors themselves suggest a topic for further research. First, these results must be replicated in independent samples, which we hope will happen soon. A second elaboration on this approach would be daunting, and this study will It should be firmly supported as it can help bridge the existing gap between neuroscience and evidence-based patient care.”

This is an independent review, Dr. Ruhe was not involved in this study.

This work is 35.pearl The annual conference of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology took place in Vienna. ECNP is Europe’s main institution working in the field of applied neuroscience.

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