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Improving anxiety treatment through the help of brain imaging: A potential future treatment strategy
Date:5/8/2008

Philadelphia, PA, May 8, 2008 Wouldnt it be nice if our doctors could predict accurately whether we would respond to a particular medication" This question is important because research studies provide information about how groups of patients tend to respond to treatments, but inevitably, differences among groups of patients with the same diagnosis mean that findings about groups of patients may not apply to individuals from those groups. Personalized medicine is the effort to match particular treatments to particular patients on the basis of genetic information or other biological markers. In a new article published in Biological Psychiatry on May 1st, researchers report their findings on the potential use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to match treatments for patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Whalen and colleagues recruited subjects diagnosed with GAD who underwent brain scans both before and after treatment with venlafaxine, an antidepressant that has been shown to be effective in treating anxiety. During the fMRI scans, the participants responses to viewing pictures of fearful facial expressions were measured. Dr. Paul Whalen, corresponding author for this article, explains, We focused our study on a regulatory circuit in the brain involving the amygdala, an area that serves to detect the presence of threatening information, and the prefrontal cortex, an area that functions to control these threat responses when they are exaggerated or unnecessary.

The researchers found that approximately two thirds of the patients experienced relief from their anxiety symptoms after treatment, and of those who improved, some responded better than others. As hypothesized, the fMRI data predicted who would do well on the drug and who would not. According to Dr. Whalen, subjects who showed high prefrontal cortex activation together with low amygdala activation in response to the fearful faces reported a significant
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Contact: Jayne Dawkins
ja.dawkins@elsevier.com
215-239-3674
Elsevier
Source:Eurekalert

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