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Depression and the Changing Brain

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MADISON – Researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH) have begun a study on brain changes that occur during the course of treatment for depression.
 
Led by Dr. Gregory Kolden, a professor of psychiatry at the school, the research team will use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) - a painless, non-invasive method of observing how the brain responds to visual images - to measure participants’ brain activity. Scans will be taken before treatment begins, approximately eight weeks into treatment and after about six months of treatment.
 
Study participants will receive either anti-depressant medication or interpersonal psychotherapy.
 
“This study will not examine whether these treatments are effective. Both are considered standard-of-care treatments for depression and are known to be highly effective,” says Kolden. “The study focuses instead on evaluating the brain changes that occur as a result of these treatments.”
 
Prior brain imaging research by the UW team and their collaborators has identified brain circuitry that is involved in the regulation of negative emotions in healthy individuals. The research team is now applying the same techniques to examine how those circuits might be changed in individuals with depression, and how they are affected by treatment.
 
The studies represent a collaboration between researchers in the fields of psychology, psychiatry and neuroscience. The medication and therapy will be provided by psychiatrists and psychologists at the SMPH Department of Psychiatry and the fMRIs will be conducted by neuroscientists at the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior in the UW Waisman Center.
 
The researchers want to ensure that study participants do not have other mental or physical health issues that make interpreting study results difficult, says Kolden.
 
Therefore, potential participants will be carefully screened to determine study eligibility. This process consists of a phone screen, an in-person interview-based screening, minor blood and urine testing and a simulation of the fMRI experience.
 
In addition, study guidelines require that eligible participants must be over the age of 18, right-handed, have no history of seizures, not be claustrophobic, meet current criteria for major depression, be willing and able to lie still during the fMRI scan time and be willing to attend all therapy or medication sessions.
 
The therapy sessions will occur weekly for the first eight weeks and then every other week as progress warrants, resulting in anywhere from 16 to 26 or more sessions, based on the participant's clinical need. Medication sessions will occur weekly for eight weeks, biweekly for eight weeks and monthly for the final eight weeks.
 
“Study participants make a significant commitment to their own treatment and the important research they are assisting us with,” says Kolden. As with all research studies, all personal information is kept confidential.
 
In order to monitor participants’ treatment progress, they will be asked to answer questions and fill out questionnaires just prior to and after each fMRI. In addition, participants will be asked to answer questions just before each therapy or medication session and fill out questionnaires just after each therapy session.
 

Date Published: 12/28/2007

News tag(s):  psych

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