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Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is a pervasive and chronic mental illness. Psychotherapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) have demonstrated effectiveness in normalizing patterns of metabolism within brain circuits typically altered by the course of disease. For severe cases, linguistic ability may be impeded. Such individuals may be better reached through nonverbal means of communication. Creative therapies like art therapy offer an intriguing alternative to traditional talk therapy. There are no previous clinical trials utilizing fMRI to demonstrate potential brain changes following art therapy. An increased understanding of potential neural responses to art therapy would enrich the empirical body on art therapy by providing a systematic assessment of concomitant behavioral and biological changes. Individuals seeking clinical MDD treatment will be recruited for study. Symptom severity and disorder history will be assessed, and baseline MRI imaging will be recorded. Participants will be assigned to one of four groups: Art Therapy (AT), CBT, untreated MDD, and healthy controls. Data from imaging and self-reports will be collected at therapy completion and at a six-month follow-up. I predict that pre- and post-treatment data is significantly different such that MDD participants’ patterns of activation and connectivity will normalize for both therapy groups and that these changes will correlate with self-report of therapy effectiveness. The result of these studies will determine if art therapy displays effectiveness in restoring mesolimbic and cortical networks disrupted by MDD. If indeed art therapy is shown to do so, specific elements of the therapy can be assessed and therapy could be optimized to achieve normalization of mesocortical function.
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Avsyuk, Sofya, "Neuroplasticity in Art Therapy for Depression" (2015). Senior Projects Spring 2015. 182.
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