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Can neuroimaging reveal the roots of psychiatric disorders? Not just yet

Can neuroimaging reveal the roots of psychiatric disorders? Not just yet

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Summary: Although neuroimaging holds great potential in helping researchers link specific patterns of brain activity to mental disorders, a new study finds that there is still a way to go to effectively link neuroimaging results to specific mental disorders.

source: Yale

Neuroimaging technology has been shown to hold great promise in helping clinicians link specific symptoms of mental disorders to abnormal patterns of brain activity. But a new Yale-led study shows there are still kinks that need to be ironed out before doctors can translate brain imaging into psychiatric disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Their findings were published on January 11 in American Journal of Psychiatry.

Several years ago, the National Institutes of Mental Health launched a multibillion-dollar research effort to discover biomarkers of brain activity that point to the biological roots of a host of mental illnesses that today are typically identified by clinical assessment of a constellation of often overlapping symptoms. reported by patients.

“The idea is to forget about classifying disease by symptoms and find the underlying biological causes,” said Yale’s Ilan Harpaz-Rotem, professor of psychiatry and psychology and senior author of the study.

For the new study, the Yale-led team sought to replicate findings from an earlier national neuroimaging study in which Emory and Harvard researchers linked clusters of brain activity to different outcomes among patients who arrived at US emergency rooms after traumatic events.

Specifically, when the researchers measured the patients’ brain activity during simple tasks—including ones that probe responses to threats and rewards—they found a cluster of brain activity that showed high reactivity to threat and reward cues and appeared to predict more severe PTSD symptoms later.

Although they identified the different clusters of brain activity seen in the earlier study, they found no association with prospective PTSD symptoms. Image is in the public domain

However, when Yale researchers analyzed similar neuroimaging data collected from recent trauma survivors in Israel, they were unable to replicate these findings. Although they identified the different clusters of brain activity seen in the earlier study, they found no association with prospective PTSD symptoms.

“This doesn’t mean that one set of data is right and the other is wrong, there’s just a lot of fundamental work that needs to be done to develop reliable models that can generalize across studies,” said Ziv Ben -Zion of Yale, a postdoctoral fellow at Yale School of Medicine and the study’s corresponding author.

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Can neuroimaging reveal the roots of psychiatric disorders?  Not just yet

In fact, the Yale researchers are currently working with the researchers of the original Emory-Harvard study to pool data sets “to look for common underlying patterns of brain activity associated with different responses to trauma,” Ben-Zion said.

“It took about 100 years to come up with the current classifications of mental illness, but we’ve only been exploring the refinement of psychiatric diagnoses using biomarkers for the last 10 years,” Harpaz-Rotem said. “We still have a long way to go.”

About this news about neuroimaging and mental health research

Author: Bess Connolly
source: Yale
Contact: Bess Connolly – Yale
Image: Image is in the public domain

Original research: The findings will appear in American Journal of Psychiatry


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