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Does Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) bring changes in the Brain?

Individuals who are suffering with psychological disorders or the family who are supporting them may sometimes have thoughts how psychotherapy or cognitive behaviour therapy change the brain and how far the significant and evident results in such cases......


The recent advances in neuro-imaging techniques have helped to increase the understanding of the neuronal correlates of mental disorders.

Psychological interventions can promote changes in the thoughts, feelings, and behaviours of patients. Can we then say that the psychological treatment promotes brain changes? Unfortunately, the biological mechanisms related to psychotherapy are little known. On the other hand, the arrival of neuro-imaging techniques makes it possible to investigate the neurobiological consequences of psychological treatment.


Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) proposes to treat various mental disorders. The literature has reported that CBT has treatment models with high efficacy rates.

One of the basic assumptions of CBT is that feelings and behaviors are largely influenced by the way the situations are interpreted. It is believed that individuals respond to the cognitive representations of the events, instead of responding to the events themselves. Consequently, they can process information in a way that does not match their reality, characterizing the cognitive distortions. Thus, the ways in which the facts are construed play an important role in the formation and maintenance of psychiatric disorders.


The literature shows that many mental disorders are involved with the inability to control fear and difficulty in regulating negative emotions. These data suggest that the conditioning of fear and the difficulty in regulating emotions play a major role in the formation and maintenance of anxiety disorders.


It is important to highlight that CBT treatment contains specific techniques (exposure, distraction, and cognitive restructuring) which allow both the extinction of conditioned fear and the cognitive regulation of emotions.


Cognitive behavior therapy has proved to be effective in the treatment of various mental disorders, although the neurobiological effects of its action are little known.

CBT favors the restructuring of thought, modification of feelings and behaviors, and promotes new learning. Consequently it involves synaptic changes. The investigation of changes in brain activity resulting from successful CBT treatment allows us to clarify the neural substrates underlying psychotherapy.


Neuroimaging studies provide a means to observe and characterize changes in brain functioning related to psychological and pharmacological interventions. Consequently, to understand how individuals process a stimulus can be an important piece of information for therapeutic response. The neuroscientific findings associated with the neuroimaging studies can enhance our knowledge of the neurobiological foundations of psychotherapies, as well as improve interventions in order to increase treatment efficacy.


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