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Health Agencies Update
August 28, 2013

Brain Scans May Suggest Best Depression Treatment

JAMA. 2013;310(8):787. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.276607

Using positron emission tomography (PET) scans to identify certain patterns in brain metabolism may help clinicians determine whether a patient is likely to respond to cognitive behavioral therapy or an antidepressant, according to a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.

Physicians typically decide on the best course of treatment for depression based on their own judgment and the wishes of the patient, but it can take months to determine whether the selected treatment is having the desired effect. Such a delay in getting effective treatment can have dire consequences for patients with depression, who may attempt suicide. To help avoid such delays, Helen Mayberg, MD, of Emory University in Atlanta, and her colleagues probed whether pretreatment PET scans could distinguish patients who would respond best to cognitive behavioral therapy from those who would respond best to escitalopram (McGrath CL et al. JAMA Psychiatry. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.143 [published online June 12, 2013]).

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