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Fundamental research

16 - 01 - 2018

Behavioral and cognitive therapy studied in rats

A study in rats has shown that psychotherapy can improve the symptoms of psychiatric disorders by increasing activity in the medial prefrontal cortex.
Psychiatric stress-related disorders such as post-traumatic stress and depression can be treated pharmacologicaly (drugs) or thanks to behavioral and cognitive therapy (CBT). However, the biological mechanisms linked to the latter are not very well known or studied. 

At the end of 2016, researchers published a model of extinction therapy that works in rats. Furthermore, they published yesterday the results of the discovery of the biological mechanisms behind this therapy.
Rats were subjected for two weeks to stressful experiences that led to cognitive and behavioral problems. They were then subjected to of a CBT (stress response in a safe environment) that led to an extinction of the disorders.
The researchers were able to show that the effectiveness of CBT was related to the stimulation of the medio-ventral prefrontal cortex (vmPFC).


The simple pharmacological stimulation of this area of ​​the brain without the use of CBT can temporarily produce the same effect as CBT.
This knowledge and subsequent studies will help understand CBT and improve its use in psychiatric disorders.