Can your habits change your brain?

This was a long debate whatever the brain can act like a muscle, to change itself based on how it used or not. Can out thoughts, our habits change for good the way our brain works? Can we “fake it to make it”? This is an interesting question, and the scientist have set up the task to discover if our brain can be changed and how.

They started to investigate how the brain can be changed by Psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy outcomes and the mechanisms of change that are related to its effects have traditionally been investigated on the psychological and social levels, by measuring changes in symptoms, psychological abilities, personality, or social functioning. Many psychiatrists have also held the unfortunate dichotomized position that psychotherapy is a treatment for psychologically based disorders, while medication is for biologically based disorders. During the past several decades, it has become clear that all mental processes derive from mechanisms of the brain. This means that any change in our psychological processes is reflected by changes in the functions or structures of the brain. Straightforward reductionistic stances, however, are unfounded because there is clear evidence that our subjective experiences affect the brain.

So, the task at hand was to identify if is any connection between the psychological changes and physical changes. Could they be related? The studies have carried out by using neuroimaging to identify how the brain is changing during therapy.

Plastic changes in the brain have been difficult to study in humans, but there has been more success in animal studies. Changes in the brain in relation to experience have been detected at the cellular and molecular levels in animals using different experimental approaches. The advent of functional neuroimaging, including single photon emission CT (SPECT), positron emission tomography (PET), and functional MRI, has made it possible to study changes at the brain systems level (by measuring changes in brain blood flow or metabolisms) and, increasingly, also on the molecular level using SPECT and PET in the living human brain.

So far, nearly 20 studies on brain changes after psychotherapy for depression, anxiety disorders, and borderline personality disorder have been published (Table). The first study was published nearly 20 years ago, in 1992. In this study, the researchers compared behavior therapy with fluoxetine treatment. Both treatment modalities demonstrated similar changes in the brainespecially in the caudate nucleus.

Drawn together, these system level studies suggest that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectic behavior therapy (DBT), psychodynamic psychotherapy, and interpersonal psychotherapy alter brain function in patients suffering from major depressive disorder (MDD), obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, posttraumatic stress disorder, and borderline personality disorder (BPD).

The majority of these studies have reported similar brain changes after psychotherapy and medication. However, some recent studies have also shown clear differences among these treatment modalities. In the study by Goldapple and colleagues,5 treatment response for CBT in patients with MDD was associated with increases in metabolism in the hippocampus and dorsal cingulate and decreases in the dorsal, ventral, and medial frontal cortex. This pattern was clearly distinct from the pattern caused by paroxetine, which included increases in metabolism in the prefrontal areas and decreases in the hippocampus and subgenual cingulate. In the recent study by Karlsson and colleagues,17 clear differences emerged between short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy and fluoxetine among patients with MDD.


A more recent study, from 2014, that has studied the efficacy of psychodynamic psychotherapy (PDT) also concluded that the brain of the patient has changed after the therapy

The clinical efficacy of psychodynamic psychotherapy (PDT) has undergone extensive study and review. Recently, researchers have studied the effects of this treatment on brain metabolic or synaptic activity, but the collective findings have never been reviewed. The objective of this review was to describe the findings of all neuroimaging studies of any form of PDT treatment. An extensive literature search through databases along with surveying of research groups were undertaken to acquire all available published studies. Eleven series were included in the final sample, consisting of 2 randomized controlled trials, 5 controlled trials and 4 case series, altogether involving 210 people: 94 healthy controls and 116 people with mood disorders, panic disorder, somatoform disorders and borderline personality disorder. A variety of neuroimaging techniques were used to examine regional metabolic activity and synaptic neurotransmission before and after treatment. The common finding was normalization of synaptic or metabolic activity in limbic, midbrain and prefrontal regions, occurring in association with improved clinical outcomes. PDT has demonstrable effects on brain function in diverse clinical populations as evidenced by a modest group of mixed neuroimaging studies.


This can lead to the conclusion that by changing our habits, our way of thinking we can change out brain. It is also possible to change our personality altogether. In the light of this findings, with sufficient work, you can fake it to make it. And remember: meditation can also change your brain. For the better.

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