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Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2015 Sep;17(3):261-79.

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

Author information

1
UCT Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, Grotte Schuur Hospital, Observatory, Cape Town, South Africa.
2
UCT Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, Grotte Schuur Hospital, Observatory, Cape Town, South Africa; MRC Unit on Anxiety & Stress Disorders, Cape Town, South Africa.

Abstract

in English, French, Spanish

Brain imaging studies over two decades have delineated the neural circuitry of anxiety and related disorders, particularly regions involved in fear processing and in obsessive-compulsive symptoms. The neural circuitry of fear processing involves the amygdala, anterior cingulate, and insular cortex, while cortico-striatal-thalamic circuitry plays a key role in obsessive-compulsive disorder. More recently, neuroimaging studies have examined how psychotherapy for anxiety and related disorders impacts on these neural circuits. Here we conduct a systematic review of the findings of such work, which yielded 19 functional magnetic resonance imaging studies examining the neural bases of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) in 509 patients with anxiety and related disorders. We conclude that, although each of these related disorders is mediated by somewhat different neural circuitry, CBT may act in a similar way to increase prefrontal control of subcortical structures. These findings are consistent with an emphasis in cognitive-affective neuroscience on the potential therapeutic value of enhancing emotional regulation in various psychiatric conditions.

KEYWORDS:

CBT; animal model; anxiety; fMRI; neural; psychotherapy

PMID:
26487807
PMCID:
PMC4610611
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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