Using Neuroimaging to Diagnose Psychiatric Disorders


Godfrey Pearlson, MD, founding director of the division of psychiatry neuroimaging at Johns Hopkins University, discusses the possibility of using neuroimaging to diagnose psychiatric disorders.

As technology continues to advance, psychiatrists are always looking for ways to improve diagnosis and treatment techniques for mental and psychiatric disorders.

Godfrey Pearlson, MD, founding director of the division of psychiatry neuroimaging at Johns Hopkins University, led a discussion on using biological measures, such as cognitive tests and functional MRI, to classify illnesses at the 2019 Annual Meeting of American Psychiatric Association. Pearlson sat down with MD Magazine® at APA 2019 to give his opinions on whether advances in neuroimaging have progressed to the point that they can be used to diagnose psychiatric disorders.

MD Mag: Have we reached a point where neuroimaging can be used to diagnose psychiatric disorders?

Pearlson: So, neuropsychiatric disorders, by definition, are brain disorders. So, neuroimaging is one pathway to brain level. Unfortunately, a lot of the findings so far have been at a group level so we can say that a hundred people with schizophrenia look very differently in their brain patterns to a hundred people without schizophrenia who are otherwise healthy. The problem is on an individual level, if I'm the patient and I want to figure out diagnostically or from a treatment point of view from my brain scan what's going on it's much more difficult. So, we've really, as neuropsychiatrists, got to make the leap from predicting and identifying things at a group level to identifying them but an individual level before they're really helpful. we're not there yet.

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