The most prevalent mental disorders, anxiety and depression, are commonly associated with structural and functional changes in the fronto-limbic brain areas. The clinical trials investigating patients with affective disorders showed different outcome to different treatments such as psychotherapy or pharmacotherapy. It is, however, still unexplored how these interventions approach affect the functional brain. This meta-analysis aims to compare the effects of psychotherapy compared to antidepressant therapy on functional brain activity in anxiety and depression disorders. Twenty-one samples with psychotherapy and seventeen samples with antidepressant therapy were included. The main finding showed an inverse effect of the two treatments on the right paracingulate activity. The patients undergoing psychotherapy showed an increase in the right paracingulate activity while pharmacological treatment led to a decrease of activation of this area. This finding seems to support the recent studies that hypothesize how psychotherapy, through the self-knowledge and the meaning processing, involves a top-down emotional regulation.
Kalsi, N., Altavilla, D., Tambelli, R., Aceto, P., Trentini, C., Di Giorgio, C., & Lai, C. (2017, June 7). Neural correlates of outcome of the psychotherapy compared to antidepressant therapy in anxiety and depression disorders: A meta-analysis. Frontiers in Psychology. Frontiers Research Foundation. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00927