October 20, 2005

Brain imaging for Schizophrenia - Not There Yet

The New York Times had a good article this past weekend on how research in brain imaging has been in development for quite a number of years, and is helping scientists understand brain disorders at new and better levels. This research, however, is not yet ready for clinical applications that would start helping people directly (for example in diagnosis) because the "resolution" of the imaging technology is not to the level that it needs to be, and costs are high. The good news is that research in many other areas are showing significant results (read about other new diagnosis tools)

The New York Times notes:

Not long ago, scientists predicted that these images, produced by sophisticated brain-scanning techniques, would help cut through the mystery of mental illness, revealing clear brain abnormalities and allowing doctors to better diagnose and treat a wide variety of disorders. And nearly every week, it seems, imaging researchers announce another finding, a potential key to understanding depression, attention deficit disorder, anxiety.

Yet for a variety of reasons, the hopes and claims for brain imaging in psychiatry have far outpaced the science, experts say.

With regard to schizophrenia, specifically, the story notes:

In a range of studies, researchers have found that people with schizophrenia suffer a progressive loss of their brain cells: a 20-year-old who develops the disorder, for example, might lose 5 percent to 10 percent of overall brain volume over the next decade, studies suggest.

Ten percent is a lot, and losses of volume in the frontal lobes are associated with measurable impairment in schizophrenia, psychiatrists have found. But brain volume varies by at least 10 percent from person to person, so volume scans of patients by themselves cannot tell who is sick, the experts say.

Studies using brain scans to measure levels of brain activity often suffer from the same problem: what looks like a "hot spot" of activity change in one person's brain may be a normal change in someone else's.

"The differences observed are not in and of themselves outside the range of variation seen in the normal population," said Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, chairman of the psychiatry department at Columbia University Medical Center and director of the New York State Psychiatric Institute.


The New York Times: Can Brain Scans See Depression?
(free registration required)

To learn more about Brain Imaging for Schizophrenia:

Schizophrenia Pictures and Images of Brains

To learn more about Diagnosis of Schizophrenia, see:

Schizophrenia Diagnosis


this web site needs pictures ! b/c i wanted to see a color coded brain that had schizophrenia

Posted by: monika murillo at October 31, 2005 03:46 PM

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