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Scanning the brain to select best treatment for depression

Researchers at Emory have discovered that specific patterns of brain activity may indicate whether a depressed patient will or will not respond to treatment with medication or psychotherapy. Currently, the choice of medication versus psychotherapy is often based on the preference of the patient or clinician, rather than objective factors. On average, only 35-40 percent of patients get well with whatever treatment they start with.

"To be ill with depression any longer than necessary can be perilous," says Helen Mayberg, MD, principal investigator for the study and professor of psychiatry, neurology and radiology at Emory University School of Medicine.

Mayberg’s positron emission tomography (PET) studies over the years have given clues about what may be going on in the brain when people are depressed, and how different treatments affect brain activity.

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