How to Prevent Overthinking in Teens with Effective Techniques and Improved Brain Connectivity

Summary: A new study conducted by researchers from The Ohio State University, University of Utah, and University of Exeter in the UK has found that Rumination-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (RF-CBT) can effectively reduce overthinking in teenagers. Originally designed for adults with recurrent depression, RF-CBT has been adapted for younger individuals. The study used fMRI technology to observe changes in brain connectivity associated with overthinking, providing hope for mitigating long-term mental health impact on adolescents, particularly in the context of global challenges like the pandemic.

Key Facts:

  1. RF-CBT has shown promise in reducing overthinking among adolescents.
  2. fMRI scans confirmed changes in brain connectivity related to self-referential thinking and emotional stimuli processing.
  3. These findings are replicated across different samples, showing consistent neural and clinical effects.

Source: Ohio State University

The study conducted by researchers from The Ohio State University, University of Utah, and University of Exeter reinforces previous groundbreaking research on the effectiveness of Rumination-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (RF-CBT) in reducing overthinking. The use of fMRI technology allowed the researchers to observe correlated shifts in brain connectivity associated with overthinking. The findings of this study have been published in the journal Biological Psychiatry Global Open Science.

This shows a teenager.
Future directions include bolstering access to teens in clinical settings and enhancing the ways we can learn about how this treatment helps youth with similar conditions. Credit: Neuroscience News

The researchers highlight the importance of adolescent development and the potential impact of interventions like RF-CBT on steering teenagers towards mental health in adulthood. The study also emphasizes the adaptability and accessibility of RF-CBT, demonstrated by its successful implementation via telehealth during the early stages of the pandemic. RF-CBT, pioneered by Ed Watkins at the University of Exeter, has previously proven effective in adults with recurrent depression.

Rachel Jacobs, an adjunct assistant professor at Northwestern University, conducted a pilot study in 2016 which aimed to adapt RF-CBT for a younger population to prevent depressive relapse. Jacobs notes that standard cognitive restructuring techniques often do not provide young people with the necessary tools to break free from the mental loops contributing to depression. The researchers conducted a trial involving 76 teenagers aged 14-17 with a history of depression. Results showed that participants who received RF-CBT reported significantly less rumination. Additionally, fMRI scans revealed changes in brain connectivity, specifically in regions associated with self-referential thinking and emotional stimuli processing. The reduction in connection between the left posterior cingulate cortex and these regions suggests that RF-CBT enhances the brain’s ability to overcome the habit of rumination.

The current study is a replication of previous findings, demonstrating consistent neural and clinical effects across two different samples. The researchers plan to continue investigating the efficacy of RF-CBT in larger samples with an active treatment control. Future directions include expanding access to RF-CBT in clinical settings and further exploration of its benefits for youth facing similar conditions.

The researchers emphasize the significance of their findings, providing a science-backed method to break the cycle of rumination and promoting healthier mental habits. They express gratitude to the participating teenagers and their families for their commitment to reducing the burden of depression through scientific research and treatment, particularly in the challenging context of a global pandemic.

Funding: This study was supported by the National Institutes of Mental Health, the Huntsman Mental Health Institute, and is dedicated to the memory of researcher Kortni K. Meyers and others who have lost their lives to depression.

About this neurodevelopment research news

Author: Eileen Scahill
Source: Ohio State University
Contact: Eileen Scahill – Ohio State University
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original Research: The findings will appear in Biological Psychiatry Global Open Science


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