A review of the neurobiological effects of psychotherapy for depression

Christopher F. Sharpley*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Although randomized, controlled clinical trials have shown that different forms of psychotherapy may be efficacious for depression, psychotherapy has not been widely reported to have effects upon the neurobiological concomitants of depression in similar ways as medication. Neuroendocrinal changes that occur during depression (principally hypercortisolaemia) produce structural and functional alterations to the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala, plus the connectivity between these regions of the brain. This article reviews the evidence to date regarding the neurobiological effects of psychotherapy for depression and suggests a hypothetical pathway linking the nurturing effects of the therapist-patient " bond" and restoration of neuroendocrinal " balance." This pathway may provide a neurobiological causal link between psychotherapy and alleviation of depression in the same way as that which exists for pharmacological treatments, and argues for a model of depression that includes both biological and psychological effects of psychotherapy when considering treatment choice and application.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)603-615
Number of pages13
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'A review of the neurobiological effects of psychotherapy for depression'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this