Researchers launch quest to understand why mental health treatments do or don’t work

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Successful mental health treatments can function like a conversation: The brain hears some kind of message — whether it’s from a drug or another approach — and the brain responds in a way that alleviates some symptoms.

Scientists are listening in on those conversations — and trying to “back translate” them to figure out how successful treatments actually work. And that effort is about to get a big boost: The nonprofit Wellcome Trust recently announced a $200 million commitment to support more mental health research, including scientists studying the underpinnings of existing treatments.

Many patients don’t respond to treatments. Many cycle through one treatment after another without any relief, hoping to eventually land on one that works. Others find treatments that work for them — but only for awhile. And scientists don’t fully know why that’s the case.

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One example: shifting someone’s cognitive bias. Studies show that when people are shown an ambiguous face, some people are prone to interpret it negatively, and others are inclined to interpret it positively. If a psychological treatment bumps a negative bias toward the center, it could produce downstream effects, like improving a person’s mood.

Read full, original post: To improve mental health treatments, scientists try to dissect the pieces that make them work

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