Psychotherapy normalizes the brain in social phobia

February 6, 2017
In the marked brain region the thickness of the cerebral cortex decreased after psychotherapy. Credit: UZH

Anxiety in social situations is not a rare problem: Around one in ten people are affected by social anxiety disorder during their lifetime. Social anxiety disorder is diagnosed if fears and anxiety in social situations significantly impair everyday life and cause intense suffering. Talking in front of a larger group can be one typical feared situation. A study conducted by researchers from the University of Zurich, Zurich University Hospital and the University Hospital of Psychiatry Zurich now reveals that the successful treatment of an anxiety disorder alters key brain structures that are involved in processing and regulating emotions.

Cognitive behavioral therapy pivotal

In patients suffering from social anxiety disorder, regulation of excessive anxiety by frontal and lateral is impaired. Strategies aimed at regulating emotions should restore the balance between cortical and subcortical brain areas. These strategies are practised in (CBT) which is a central therapy for social anxiety disorder. The study from Zurich investigated structural in patients suffering from social anxiety disorder after a specific ten-week course of CBT. Using magnetic resonance imaging the participants' brains were examined before and after CBT.

Changes in the brain normalized

"We were able to show that structural changes occur in brain areas linked to self control and emotion regulation," says Annette Brühl, head physician at the Center for Depression, Anxiety Disorders and Psychotherapy at the University Hospital of Psychiatry Zurich (PUK). The more successful the treatment, the stronger brain changes. The research group was also able to demonstrate that brain areas involved in processing emotions were more interconnected after the treatment. "Psychotherapy normalizes brain changes associated with ," Brühl sums up.

Explore further: Antidepressants boost CBT for social anxiety

More information: V R Steiger et al. Pattern of structural brain changes in social anxiety disorder after cognitive behavioral group therapy: a longitudinal multimodal MRI study, Molecular Psychiatry (2016). DOI: 10.1038/mp.2016.217

Related Stories

Antidepressants boost CBT for social anxiety

July 5, 2016
Treatments for social anxiety disorder often include either selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), but new research from Uppsala University indicates that social anxiety disorder ...

Brain scans could help predict response to psychotherapy for anxiety and depression

November 10, 2016
Brain imaging scans may one day provide useful information on the response to psychotherapy in patients with depression or anxiety, according to a review of current research in the November/December issue of the Harvard Review ...

How social anxiety can be overcome with internet

October 21, 2016
In the current issue of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics a study analyzes the effects of internet-based cognitive behavior therapy for social anxiety. Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is one of the most common mental disorders ...

Scientists discover response to anxiety linked to movement control areas in brain

September 19, 2016
Researchers have discovered that the response to anxiety in teenagers may include not only the parts of the brain which deal with emotions (the limbic system), as has been long understood, but also movement control centres ...

Research helps people with social phobia face their fears

September 5, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Social anxiety disorder – which can include being afraid of speaking in public, fear of interacting with people, and intense nervousness at being the center of attention – affects millions of people ...

Brain volume changes after CBT

February 3, 2016
After just nine weeks of internet-delivered cognitive behavioural therapy, the brain of patients suffering from social anxiety disorder changes in volume. Anxiety is reduced, and parts of the patients' brains decrease in ...

Recommended for you

Babies can learn that hard work pays off

September 21, 2017
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. A new study from MIT reveals that babies as young as 15 months can learn to follow this advice. The researchers found that babies who watched an adult struggle at two different ...

Study links brain inflammation to suicidal thinking in depression

September 21, 2017
Patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) have increased brain levels of a marker of microglial activation, a sign of inflammation, according to a new study in Biological Psychiatry by researchers at the University of ...

Oxytocin turns up the volume of your social environment

September 20, 2017
Before you shop for the "cuddle" hormone oxytocin to relieve stress and enhance your social life, read this: a new study from the University of California, Davis, suggests that sometimes, blocking the action of oxytocin in ...

Researchers develop new tool to assess individual's level of wisdom

September 20, 2017
Researchers at University of San Diego School of Medicine have developed a new tool called the San Diego Wisdom Scale (SD-WISE) to assess an individual's level of wisdom, based upon a conceptualization of wisdom as a trait ...

Alcohol use affects levels of cholesterol regulator through epigenetics

September 20, 2017
In an analysis of the epigenomes of people and mice, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine and the National Institutes of Health report that drinking alcohol may induce changes to a cholesterol-regulating gene.

Self-control may not diminish throughout the day

September 20, 2017
After a long day of work and carefully watching what you eat, you might expect your self-control to slip a little by kicking back and cracking open a bag of potato chips.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.