Neuroimaging Correlates of Pharmacological and Psychological Treatments for Specific Phobia
Ila M. Linares,
Marcos H.N. Chags,
Joao P. Machado-de-Sousa,
Jose A.S. Crippa,
Jaime E.C. Hallak.
Specific phobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by irrational fear and avoidance of specific things or
situations, interfering significantly with the patients’ daily life. Treatment for the disorder consists of both
pharmacological and psychological approaches, mainly cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Neuroimaging techniques
have been used in an attempt to improve our understanding of the neurobiology of SP and of the effects of treatment
options available. This review describes the design and results of eight articles investigating the neuroimaging correlates
of pharmacological and psychological treatments for SP. The studies show that CBT is effective in SP, leading to a
reduction of anxiety symptoms that is accompanied by functional alterations in the brain. The results of pharmacological
interventions for SP are less uniform, but suggest that the partial agonist of the NMDA (N-methyl D-aspartate) receptor
DCS (D-cycloserine) can be used in combination with psychotherapy techniques for the achievement of quicker treatment
response and that DCS modulates the function of structures implicated in the neurobiology of SP. Further research should
explore the augmentation of CBT treatment with DCS in controlled trials.
Keywords: Anxiety disorder, neuroimaging, pharmacotherapy, psychotherapy, specific phobia, treatment.
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