Brain scans help scientists catch glimpses of brain activity

BOSTON, MA — Doctors know that psychiatric disorders always involve activity in the brain. Now scientists are beginning to get some glimpses of that activity and how it changes with treatment, reports the August issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter. One source of these insights is the use of such scanning techniques as positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The findings to date—which are preliminary and often conflicting—usually involve two brain regions: the limbic system, where memory meets emotion, and the prefrontal cortex, which supports planning, judgment, and self-control. Studies have concentrated on three disorders: "The ultimate goal of understanding psychotherapy's effects on the brain is to influence the choice of treatments," says Dr. Michael Miller, editor in chief of the Harvard Mental Health Letter, "However, for now it is still difficult to get consistent results from brain scans."
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