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New Field Could Open For MRI: Mental Health

June 7, 2013
Written by: , Filed in: Diagnostic Imaging, Neuroradiology
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Results of a new study could open a whole new field of diagnostic imaging for MRI.

Researchers have found that MRI can accurately distinguish healthy individuals from those who have bipolar disorder. The study included two different groups of bipolar patients, each matched with an equal number of healthy controls.

A sophisticated analysis of the scans using pattern-recognition techniques achieved 73 percent accuracy in identifying the bipolar patients in the first cohort and 72 percent accuracy in the second. An article about the study was published online this week in Psychological Medicine. Said study co-author Andy Simmons, PhD:

The level of accuracy we achieved is comparable to that of many other tests used in medicine. Additionally, brain scanning is very acceptable to patients, as most people consider it a routine diagnostic test.

Dr. Simmons is a reader in neuroimaging at King’s College London. He was quoted in a news release from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.

MRI is not now used as a routine diagnostic tool for psychological disorders. But this study suggests it could be. That could open a whole new area of diagnostic use for brain scans—and be a boon to patients with difficult-to-diagnose conditions.

Most mental illnesses are diagnosed purely on the basis of symptoms. Because many disorders share many symptoms, achieving a correct diagnosis can take years.

“Bipolar disorder may be easily misdiagnosed for other disorders, such as depression or schizophrenia,” said the study’s senior author, Sophia Frangou, MD, professor of psychiatry and chief of the psychosis research program at Mount Sinai. “This is why bipolar disorder ranks among the top 10 disorders causing significant disability worldwide.”

Dr. Frangou acknowledged that “diagnostic imaging for psychiatry is still under investigation and not ready for widespread use. Nonetheless, our results together with those from other labs are a harbinger of a major shift in the way we approach diagnosis in psychiatry.”

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