Talk Therapy Can Change Connectivity in the Brain Long-Term

Man in therapy sessionCognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can produce long-term changes in brain connections, according to a study published in the journal Translational Psychiatry. The study is a follow-up to an initial trial that assessed preliminary psychotherapy-induced brain changes.

Previous studies also suggest psychotherapy can change the brain. One study found online CBT produced brain changes in people with social anxiety. Another study found transference-focused psychotherapy (TFP) could alter brain behavior in women with borderline personality.

Studying Therapy’s Effect on the Brain

The study assessed the role of cognitive behavioral therapy for psychosis (CBTp) in changing behavior and brain connectivity. In an earlier study, researchers used CBTp with 22 participants. Each of the participants also took antipsychotic medications. Before and after six months of therapy, investigators administered functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans while participants looked at images of faces expressing various emotions.

The team compared this group’s brain scans to a group receiving only medication. Both groups had reductions in symptoms, according to self-reports and clinician assessments. The group that underwent CBTp also saw increases in brain connectivity in the amygdala, a brain region associated with emotion. Brain regions associated with processing threatening stimuli also showed connectivity changes. People with psychosis often hold false threatening beliefs about people or objects attempting to harm them.

Long-Lasting Brain Changes Associated with CBT

The latest study followed up on the original results eight years later. Researchers looked at 15 participants’ monthly symptom ratings since the original study. Participants also provided subjective assessments of their recovery.

Participants who experienced changes in brain connectivity continued to experience relief eight years later. This suggests therapy can change the brain, and the changes are likely to be long-lasting. Because the changes were connected to measurable differences in brain connectivity, the study points to a correlation between brain functioning and experiences of psychosis.

Most studies of therapy-related brain changes have been small, but when taken together, they point to the power of therapy to produce behavior-altering brain changes.

References:

  1. Mason, L., Peters, E., Williams, S. C., & Kumari, V. (2017). Brain connectivity changes occurring following cognitive behavioural therapy for psychosis predict long-term recovery. Translational Psychiatry, 7(1). doi:10.1038/tp.2016.263
  2. Talking therapy changes the brain’s wiring, study reveals for first time. (2017, January 17). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/170117101436.htm

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  • Mason

    Mason

    January 25th, 2017 at 10:33 AM

    I know that there are many people in this field who will rightly be very excited about these conclusions.

  • sharon m

    sharon m

    January 25th, 2017 at 2:20 PM

    Eight years later and you still see results?
    The weight that I lost from the last diet that I was on didn’t stay off nearly that long, so this looks promising!

  • Brady

    Brady

    January 26th, 2017 at 1:52 PM

    I know what a difference just in the short term that this has made in my own life so I am excited to see that for many people this change is not fleeting, but instead can have life long results. I guess that I was a little skeptical like many people are but hey, when something works that I am more than willing to share that with other people.
    Therapy isn’t something that you can take lightly or just “go to” every now and then. The process becomes a part of you and I think that when you finally reach that point and can allow that to happen, that is when you will start to see some really amazing breakthroughs in your life.

  • Grayson

    Grayson

    January 27th, 2017 at 8:34 AM

    oh just for psychosis?

  • Sierra

    Sierra

    January 28th, 2017 at 7:37 AM

    I simply like having a person that I can talk with from whom I feel no need to justify anything or give any thought to the fact that they are judging me. I just like the feeling that I can sit down and tell this person anything that I need to and they will not think any less of me for those statements.

  • Brad

    Brad

    January 29th, 2017 at 2:41 PM

    If the changes are this long lasting and that of medication would only be for the duration of time that you took the medication then why on earth would you not want to try something that could have positive lasting effect on you?
    I would much rather give this a try than to think that I would have to be on some sort of medication for ever

  • jan

    jan

    January 30th, 2017 at 10:23 AM

    You know that there will be people though who look at this as a bad thing, like if these changes are being made then this is something that they would want to avoid.

  • Rebbie

    Rebbie

    January 31st, 2017 at 10:20 AM

    I don’t know about brain connectivity or anything like that, but what I do know is that when I sought out treatment for myself and this involved the chance to talk to someone one on one and really get the the heart of the things that were weighing on me, that is the most freedom that I think that I have ever been able to feel in my life.

    If you have not ever carried that burden with you you just can’t know how freeing and uplifting talking to another human being can be.

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