Scientists have discovered that treating depression increases brain connectivity

Scientists have discovered that treating depression increases brain connectivity

Brain connectivity map of depression

Representative maps of affected connections in the brain. The number of these connections increases after treatment. Credit: Jonathan Reple

Treating depression increases brain connectivity.

Most scientists believe that the structure of the adult brain is generally rigid and incapable of rapid change. However, new research has now revealed that this is not true. In a new study, German scientists have shown that treating patients for depression can increase brain connectivity. Furthermore, those who respond well to this treatment show greater increases in connectivity than those who do not.

Presenting the work at the European College for Neuropsychopharmacology Congress in Vienna, lead researcher, Professor Jonathan Reple said:

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

Treating depression increases brain connectivity

The graph shows the increase in the number of connections before and after treatment for clinical depression. Credit: Jonathan Reple

Working at the University of Muenster in Germany, scientists studied 109 patients with severe depression (major depressive disorder) and compared them with 55 healthy controls. The participants’ brains were scanned using an MRI scanner set up to identify which parts of the brain were communicating with other parts as a way to measure the degree of connectivity between the brains. Patients are 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 re-scanned using MRI to measure the number of brain connections. They were retested for depressive symptoms.

Professor Reppel (currently professor of predictive psychiatry at the University of Frankfurt) says:

“We found that depression treatment changed the brain’s architecture, which goes against previous expectations. Treated patients showed more connections than they did before treatment. Moreover, those who responded the most to treatment had more new connections than those who showed little response. made the connection. A second scan showed no time effect in healthy controls supporting our findings that we see something that is related to the disease and more importantly the treatment of the disease.

“We saw that these changes occurred in about 6 weeks, and we were surprised at the speed of the response. We had no explanation as to how these changes occurred or why they could occur with such different types of treatment.”

Commenting, Dr. Erik Ruhe, Rabdaud University Medical Center, Nijmegen, The Netherlands 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 has much greater flexibility in (even short) time adaptation than previously thought. Indeed a key concept for treating depression (and other mental illnesses) is plasticity over time. and has been proposed as a general mechanism for electroconvulsive therapy. However, the amount of research is limited to elucidate which changes are necessary or specific for treatment response or relief from depression. Furthermore, the next question is whether different treatments have the potential to alter specifically targeted brain networks. Or conversely whether we can use the brain-network disturbances measured in the present study to choose which therapies will be helpful.

“It is unfortunate that the changes observed over time cannot be linked to a form of treatment, but the authors themselves suggest a topic for further research. First, these results should be replicated in independent samples, which hopefully will happen soon. Second, more details on this approach are difficult. will and should be strongly supported as this work may help bridge the current gap between neuroscience and evidence-based patient care.”

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

This work was presented in 35m European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Annual Conference, held in Vienna. ECNP is Europe’s leading organization working in applied neuroscience.

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