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Depression: Brain activity indicates the most effective therapy

Depression: Brain activity indicates the most effective therapy


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New procedure makes depression more treatable

An Austrian research team recently presented a new procedure for depression that reads the brain activity of those affected. This enables doctors to recognize directly whether drug therapy with antidepressants will be successful or not.

Together with international colleagues, researchers at MedUni Vienna have developed a new procedure that can better treat depression. The brain activity of those affected is recorded using an imaging process. The treating physicians can use the data to identify whether antidepressants will work or not at the start of therapy. According to the researchers, the duration of treatment should be significantly reduced. The researchers recently presented their results in the specialist journal "Translational Psychiatry".

Trial and error

According to the WHO health organization, depression is the most common mental illness in adults. As reported by the German Depression Aid Foundation, 5.3 million people are affected in Germany alone. There are effective therapies for healing, but not every treatment starts with everyone affected. Finding the right therapy usually follows the "trial and error" principle: You try something and see if it works. Medications often have to be switched several times before the symptoms improve. According to the researchers at MedUni Vienna, this is about to change.

Identify the right therapy at the start of treatment

As the Austrian study team showed, the success of depression therapy can be seen from the brain activity at the beginning of the treatment. "Patients with sufficient activity in the forebrain responded to therapy with an antidepressant, while patients who did not had no success in therapy," study director Lukas Pezawas summarized the results of the study in a press release.

Why does brain activity indicate the right treatment?

The procedure was tested with the most commonly prescribed antidepressant escitalopram, which is said to lead to an increase in serotonin in the nerve cells. According to the researchers, the basic requirement for therapeutic success is that the forebrain is active enough to support the effects of the antidepressant. This can be determined using an imaging method.

Far-reaching consequences in depression treatment

"These results are important for understanding why an antidepressant works for one patient and not for the other," explains Pezawas. This has far-reaching consequences for the further medical procedure. The new process could significantly improve the rate of improvement in antidepressants available today. In addition, doctors will be able to decide more quickly in the future whether medicinal or psychotherapeutic measures need to be taken. (vb)

Author and source information



Video: Lift Depression With These 3 Prescriptions- Without-Pills. Susan Heitler. TEDxWilmington (October 2022).