Over at the NYTimes blog, Dr. Richard A. Friedman discusses how the same depression treatments can effect different patients. While antidepressants and psychotherapy (talk therapy) share a few common effects, they can also affect distinct brain regions differently.
For example, clinical factors, such as having a history of childhood trauma, changes the brain in a certain way that makes patients usually respond better to psychotherapy than to an antidepressant.
But for most forms of depression, there is little evidence to support one type of treatment over another. This leads to a serious, life-threatening problem for those dealing with mental illness - what treatment should this person receive, from choosing between antidepressants to psychotherapy more generally, to choosing amongst the many types of medication or schools of talk therapy?
Learning why patients respond better to different treatment options, both at the brain and clinical level, should help these patients healthily recover from the depths of mental illness. One day soon, Dr. Friedman hopes, "We may be able to quickly scan a patient with an M.R.I. or PET, check the brain activity “fingerprint” and select an antidepressant or psychotherapy accordingly."
We hope so too.