For patients with social anxiety disorder (SAD), current behavioral and pharmaceutical treatments work about half the time. After weeks of investment in therapy, about half of patients will likely still suffer with symptoms of anxiety, and have little choice but to try again with something else.

But new MIT research suggests that it may be possible to do better than a coin toss when choosing psychiatric therapies for patients. The study, which performed brain scans on 38 SAD patients, found that these scans contain clues that indicate, with about 80% accuracy, which SAD patients will do well in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), an intervention designed to help patients change thinking patterns. Use of the scans to predict treatment outcomes improved predictions fivefold over use of a clinician’s assessment alone.

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