October 26, 2007

New Research Group Studying Brain to Determine Mental Illness

As compared to other parts of the body, we currently know little about the brain. Methods used to diagnose mental disorders are not as effective as are methods utilized to diagnose other types of health disorders such as diabetes or cancer. In fact, as neuropsychologist Robert Bilder points out in a new story featured in UCLA Today Online:"It's a little ironic that we diagnose people by talking to them...With some of these disorders, like schizophrenia, communication may be disturbed as part of the syndrome. Yet the diagnosis is based mostly on a conversation."

The story discusses the "trial-and-error" treatment most people suffering from mental illnesses have to undergo, pointing to the fact that we still don't really understand how drugs used to treat mental illness work. In an attempt to improve this, Bilder and other cross-departmental researchers at UCLA have come together in the Consortium for Neuropsychiatric Phenomics, a group the story describes as "an interdisciplinary 'research team of the future'". Their belief is that when a person suffers from mental illness, areas of the brain demonstrate this. Thus targeting (or checking) specific areas of the brain to determine mental illness may be a better method of diagnosis than mere conversation. Their goal is to "define mental illness in the future by identifying its biological foundations — down to the genetic level."

In the story, Bilder states that there is a consensus about the presence of a signal in the brain when behavior is disturbed:"...everyone agrees that if behavior is disturbed, then we have to find a signal that's responsible for that somewhere in the brain. The question is, what brain systems should we be looking at?...If we understand the biology of a disorder at the genetic and molecular levels, then we can start focusing more rationally on the drugs or behavioral treatments that will help...Rather than lumping together people under the label of schizophrenia, which can have 100 different causes, doctors would instead pinpoint and quantify the strengths and weaknesses found in different brain systems..."

As Bilder further points out, the implications for this kind of understanding of the brain are major: "...Pinpointing the strengths and weaknesses found in the brain...," will allow us to get a "...much better, more accurate and biologically meaningful representation of what people are experiencing...It will both advance our understanding of the causes of these problems and enable better treatment."

To Read the Full Story: UCLA Today Online, Researchers to track mental illness from gene on up


LS, It is biology showing it's ugly face, when they don't even want to talk to us anymore.
So long, Sebastiaan

Posted by: sebastiaan koning at October 27, 2007 01:50 AM

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