To Diagnose Mental Illness, Read the Brain

Posted on June 28, 2016

Although scientists have learned a lot about the brain in the last few decades, approaches to treating mental illnesses have not kept up. As neuroscientists learn more about brain circuits, Stanford psychiatrist Amit Etkin foresees a time when diagnoses will be based on brain scans rather than symptoms. Etkin, who will be speaking at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Tianjin, China, from June 26 to 28, spoke with Scientific American about his research on the neurological basis of emotional disorders and the future of mental health treatment.

Etkin: There are a few fundamental issues and mistakes we’ve made. One is that in the absence of knowing what the causes of the illnesses that we treat are, we focus on the symptoms, and that has already led us down the wrong path.

What do you see as the path forward? How do we rectify those mistakes?

Etkin: We understand behavior is essentially underpinned by brain circuits. That is, there are circuits in the brain that determine certain types of behaviors and certain types of thoughts and feelings. That’s probably the most useful way of organizing brain function. If you can start characterizing circuit disruptions for compensatory symptoms at an individual subject level and then link that to how you can provide interventions, then you can get away completely from diagnoses and can intervene with brain function in a directed way.

Category(s):Mental Health in Asia

Source material from Scientific-American

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