AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 27, Number 3, 2018

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Brain Scans May Help Diagnose Neurological, Psychiatric Disorders

Study shows that brain networks reliably track individuals over time

 

There are no laboratory tests to diagnose migraines, depression, bipolar disorder and many other ailments of the brain. Doctors typically gauge such illnesses based on self-reported symptoms and behavior.

Now, a new study shows that a kind of brain scan called functional connectivity MRI (fcMRI) – which shows how brain regions interact – can reliably detect fundamental differences in how individual brains are wired. As such, the technique potentially could be used to distinguish healthy people from people with brain diseases or disorders, and provide insight into variations in cognitive ability and personality traits.

“This is a step toward realizing the clinical promise of functional connectivity MRI,” said senior author Steven Petersen, PhD, the James S. McDonnell Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience in Neurology and a professor of neurosurgery, of biomedical engineering, of psychological and brain sciences, and of radiology. “Before we can develop diagnostic tests based on fcMRI, we need to know what it is actually measuring. We show here that it’s not measuring what you’re thinking, but how your brain is organized. That opens the door to an entire new field of clinical testing.”

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