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Simple Test ID’s Who Could Benefit from Talk Therapy

A new research study presents a low-cost method that can determine if a depressed individual will benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy.

Although the study was small, researchers discovered that when people are read emotionally laden words, the amount of pupil dilatation indicates if they would respond to cognitive or talk therapy.

According the National Institute of Health, more than 20 million Americans suffer from depression. However, current forms of talk therapy are effective for only half of the patients who undergo this treatment.

Predicting who would most likely benefit from therapy is expected to speed recovery times and reduce costs by minimizing ineffective care.

University of Pittsburgh and University of Pennsylvania researchers say the technique draws from emerging findings that suggests brain scans can help to predict which patients will respond to cognitive therapy.

Unfortunately, brain scans are too expensive, time-intensive, and fraught with technical challenges to use on a routine basis.

“We have shown that a quick, inexpensive, and easy to administer physiological measure, pupil dilation in response to emotional words, not only reflects activity in brain regions involved in depression and treatment response but can predict which patients are likely to respond to cognitive therapy,” explained Dr. Greg Siegle, corresponding author on the study.

The findings are published in the current issue of Biological Psychiatry.

“According to the proverb, the eye is the mirror of the soul or, in this case, the brain. The essential finding of this study is that that activity in the brain’s cortical emotion regulatory systems is strongly related to pupil size when people are viewing emotion-laden words,” commented Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry.

“It is because of this relationship between eye and brain that pupil measurements predict the response to cognitive therapy.”

Talk therapy helps individuals overcome or modify negative or irrational thoughts and behavior. Individuals learn techniques to improve their thoughts thereby improving mood and reducing stress.

Although the preliminary results are positive, the study needs to be replicated on a larger scale. If the results hold forth, the technique will help practitioners better determine appropriate interventions.

Source: Elsevier

Simple Test ID’s Who Could Benefit from Talk Therapy

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Simple Test ID’s Who Could Benefit from Talk Therapy. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 21, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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