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A systematic review of the neural bases of psychotherapy for anxiety and related disorders


Neural Circuits + Psychotherapy

Structural and functional brain imaging studies in patients with anxiety and related disorders have shown alterations in analogous regions, identifying a “fear network” incorporating the amygdala, anterior cingulate, and insular cortex. More recently, a number of fMRI studies have begun to explore the impact of psychotherapy on these neural circuits.

About the research

This review explores the topic of how cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) alters neural circuitry in anxiety, depression, PTSD, OCD, and related disorders. CBT remains the most widely used first-line treatment for these psychiatric conditions, with an important outcome of improved emotional regulation.

The data reviewed suggests that the neural circuitry underlying emotion processing and regulation (prefrontal cortex and limbic system) appears most sensitive to change following psychotherapy. Each different psychiatric condition discussed involves discrete differences in neural circuitry, which are detailed in the review, but overall the data shows that psychotherapy does effectively improve the connectivity of these regions in question.

Read the review