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Stanford University School of Medicine

A game changer for the treatment of depression?

Stanford neuroscientist Leanne Williams, PhD, started out in the clinic. She expected her professional life would be that of a psychotherapist treating patients, not studying the intricacies of the brain and how it functions. But her career wound up changing, as she wanted to commit more of her life to reshaping the understanding of these devastating illnesses. Like many other scientists studying the mysteries of psychiatric disease, Williams believes that the increasing knowledge about how the brain goes array will have a significant impact in lessening the stigma of mental illness.

In a new Stanford Medicine study that we wrote about yesterday, Williams and colleagues were able to analyze patients' brain function and personal history to predict with 80 percent accuracy whether antidepressants would be helpful. This is a potential game changer in tailoring treatments specifically to patients: As Williams points out, treatment with medication can be hit-or-miss these days, and the result of treatment failures is devastating not only to the patient but to society as well.

I spoke to Williams for my latest 1:2:1 podcast about this study and also about the future of breakthroughs in neuroscience. She's greatly optimistic that we're entering an era in brain research that will produce significant results and perhaps alter the devastation of depression and anxiety disorders, two of the most significant psychiatric illnesses around the globe.

Previously: Using brain scans and personal history to predict best antidepressant choice and Stanford brain scientist's quest to personalize mental-health care
Photo by Leslie Williamson

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