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Although cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been shown to be an effective treatment for depression, the biological mechanisms underpinning it are less clear. This review examines if it is associated with changes identifiable with current brain imaging technologies.
To better understand the mechanisms by which CBT exerts its effects, we undertook a systematic review of studies examining brain imaging changes associated with CBT treatment of depression.
Ten studies were identified, five applying functional magnetic resonance imaging, three positron emission tomography, one single photon emission computer tomography, and one magnetic resonance spectroscopy. No studies used structural MRI. Eight studies included a comparator group; in only one of these studies was there randomised allocation to another treatment. CBT-associated changes were most commonly observed in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), posterior cingulate, ventromedial prefrontal cortex/orbitofrontal cortex (VMPFC/OFC) and amygdala/hippocampus.
The evidence, such as it is, suggests resting state activity in the dorsal ACC is decreased by CBT. It has previously been suggested that treatment with CBT may result in increased efficiency of a putative ‘dorsal cognitive circuit’, important in cognitive control and effortful regulation of emotion. It is speculated this results in an increased capacity for ‘top-down’ emotion regulation, which is employed when skills taught in CBT are engaged. Though changes in activity of the dorsal ACC could be seen as in-keeping with this model, the data are currently insufficient to make definitive statements about how CBT exerts its effects. Data do support the contention that CBT is associated with biological brain changes detectable with current imaging technologies.
In bipolar disorder, treatment with antidepressants without concomitant use of mood stabilisers (antidepressant monotherapy) is associated with development of mania and rapid cycling and is therefore not recommended. The present study aimed to investigate the psychopharmacological treatment patterns in bipolar disorder over time, with a focus on antidepressant monotherapy.
Cohort study with annual cross-sectional assessment of the use of psychotropic medications between 1995 and 2012 for all Danish residents aged 10 years or older with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder registered in the Danish Psychiatric Central Research Register. Users of a given psychotropic medication were defined as individuals having filled at least one prescription for that particular medication in the year of interest.
We identified 20 618 individuals with bipolar disorder. The proportion of patients with bipolar disorder using antidepressants, atypical antipsychotics and anticonvulsants increased over the study period, while the proportion of patients using lithium, typical antipsychotics and benzodiazepines/sedatives decreased. The proportion of patients treated with antidepressant monotherapy decreased from 20.5% in 1997 to 12.1% in 2012, and among antidepressant users, the proportion in monotherapy decreased from 47.7% to 23.9%, primarily driven by a decrease in the use of tricyclic antidepressants.
The results show an increase in the proportion of patients with bipolar disorder being treated with antidepressants in the period from 1997 to 2012. However, in accordance with international treatment guidelines, the extent of antidepressant monotherapy decreased during the same period.
A number of atypical antipsychotic drugs were demonstrated to have anxiolytic effects in patients and in animal models. These effects were mostly suggested to be the consequence of the drugs’ affinity to the serotonin system and its receptors. Asenapine is a relatively new atypical antipsychotic that is prescribed for schizophrenia and for bipolar mania. Asenapine has a broad pharmacological profile with significant effects on serotonergic receptors, hence it is reasonable to expect that asenapine may have some anxiolytic effects. The present study was therefore designed to examine possible effects of asenapine on anxiety-like behaviour of mice.
Male ICR mice were repeatedly treated with 0.1 or 0.3 mg/kg injections of asenapine and then tested in a battery of behavioural tests related to anxiety including the open-field test, elevated plus-maze (EPM), defensive marble burying and hyponeophagia tests. In an adjunct experiment, we tested the effects of acute diazepam in the same test battery.
The results show that diazepam reduced anxiety-like behaviour in the EPM, the defensive marble burying test and the hyponeophagia test but not in the open field. Asenapine has anxiolytic-like effects in the EPM and the defensive marble burying tests but had no effects in the open-field or the hyponeophagia tests. Asenapine had no effects on locomotor activity.
The results suggest that asenapine may have anxiolytic-like properties and recommends that clinical trials examining such effects should be performed.
The purpose of the present study was to test whether individuals with Internet addiction disorder (IAD) presented analogous characteristics of working memory, executive function and impulsivity compared with pathological gambling (PG) patients.
The subjects included 23 individuals with IAD, 23 PG patients and 23 controls. All of the participants were measured with the digit span task, Wisconsin Card Sorting Test, go/no-go task and Barratt Impulsiveness Scale-11 (BIS-11) under the same experimental conditions.
The results of this study showed that the false alarm rate, total response errors, perseverative errors, failure to maintain set and BIS-11 scores of both the IAD and PG groups were significantly higher than that of the control group. In addition, the forward scores and backwards scores, percentage of conceptual level responses, number of categories completed and hit rate of the IAD and PG groups were significantly lower than that of the control group. Furthermore, the false alarm rate and BIS-11 scores of the IAD group were significantly higher than those of PG patients, and the hit rate was significantly lower than that of the PG patients.
Individuals with IAD and PG patients present deficiencies in working memory, executive dysfunction and impulsivity, and individuals with IAD are more impulsive than PG patients.
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) seems to play an important role in the course of depression including the response to antidepressants in patients with depression. We aimed to study the effect of an antidepressant intervention on peripheral BDNF in healthy individuals with a family history of depression.
We measured changes in BDNF messenger RNA (mRNA) expression and whole-blood BDNF levels in 80 healthy first-degree relatives of patients with depression randomly allocated to receive daily tablets of escitalopram 10 mg versus placebo for 4 weeks.
We found no statistically significant difference between the escitalopram and the placebo group in the change in BDNF mRNA expression and whole-blood BDNF levels. Post hoc analyses showed a statistically significant negative correlation between plasma escitalopram concentration and change in whole-blood BDNF levels in the escitalopram-treated group.
The results of this randomised trial suggest that escitalopram 10 mg has no effect on peripheral BDNF levels in healthy individuals.
The brainstem-derived neuropeptide S (NPS) has a multidirectional regulatory activity, especially as a potent anxiolytic factor. Accumulating data suggests that neuroleptics affect peptidergic signalling in various brain structures. However, there is no information regarding the influence of haloperidol on NPS and NPS receptor (NPSR) expression.
We assessed NPS and NPSR mRNA levels in brains of rats treated with haloperidol using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction.
Chronic haloperidol treatment (4 weeks) led to a striking upregulation of NPS and NPSR expression in the rat brainstem. Conversely, the NPSR mRNA expression was decreased in the hippocampus and striatum.
This stark increase of NPS in response to haloperidol treatment supports the hypothesis that this neuropeptide is involved in the dopamine-dependent anxiolytic actions of neuroleptics and possibly also in the pathophysiology of mental disorders. Furthermore, our findings underline the complex nature of potential interactions between dopamine receptors and brain peptidergic pathways, which has potential clinical applications.
The precise aetiology of schizophrenia remains unclear. The neurodevelopmental hypothesis of schizophrenia has been proposed based on the accumulation of genomic or neuroimaging studies.
In this study, we examined the catecholaminergic neuronal networks in the frontal cortices of disrupted-in-schizophrenia 1 (DISC1) knockout (KO) mice, which are considered to be a useful model of schizophrenia.
Six DISC1 homozygous KO mice and six age-matched littermates were used. The animals’ brains were cut into 20-μm-thick slices, which were then immunohistochemically stained using an anti-tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) monoclonal antibody.
The TH-immunopositive fibres detected in the orbitofrontal cortices of the DISC1 KO mice were significantly shorter than those seen in the wild-type mice.
These neuropathological findings indicate that the hypofrontal symptoms of schizophrenia are associated with higher mental function deficiencies or cognitive dysfunction such as a loss of working memory.