Brain fingerprinting to help identify mental health disorders

Mental health disorders are all-pervasive in the U.S., where 1 in 5 individuals struggle with some sort of mental health illness. Despite several strides made in the field of treatment advances, a majority of people do not receive support on time or receive no treatment at all. This is because the diagnosis of a mental health disorder is exceedingly challenging. A mental health care provider studies the complete history of an individual or their family and related people, performs a mental and physical examination, might perform various other investigations like EEG and blood tests, and observes a person for some time to note their behavioral attributes. This entire process is time consuming giving the patient an opportunity to opt out of it at any point. In addition, the symptoms of several mental health disorders overlap, making it tough for a psychiatrist to arrive at a correct and timely diagnosis.

Nevertheless, researchers all across the globe are working relentlessly to make the diagnosis and treatment of these mental health disorders less complicated and more productive. Recently, a team of researchers from Yale University and Mclean Hospital, Massachusetts conducted a study on the human brain which will help improve the understanding of symptoms and causes of mental health illnesses such as schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder, amongst others. The findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, investigated brain connections in patients struggling with psychiatric disorders.

Extensive investigation into large-scale brain systems

Lead author Dr. Justin T. Baker, scientific director of the McLean Institute for Technology in Psychiatry, said that their study investigated the brain network connectivity in patients with mental health disorders. According to Dr. Baker, the study took an extensive view of the functioning of the brain’s large scale system and the way it interacted with each other. Using magnetic reverberation imaging data on more than 1000 patients diagnosed with mental health illnesses like depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, Dr. Baker and his team collected data by asking the participants to lie with their eyes wide open in a scanner. This allowed the researchers to secure data about spontaneous variations in the human brain.

The study was based on the concept of measuring all connections inside the human brain at a single point in time. Unlike previous studies, which focused on the biological fundamentals of the psychiatric conditions, this study emphasized on studying the whole brain system at once. It focused not only on individual systems like motor functions and the sense of vision but also on the functions of higher brain systems, like the cognitive systems. It also observed if these higher systems had connections with each other.

Dr. Baker said that this study was critical because it did not have any objective measures to verify mental illnesses in patients as there are no vital signs in psychiatry which help identify a mental illness. It, in fact, allowed “brain fingerprinting” which helped in identifying changes in the brain and how information regarding different forms of illnesses was shared amongst the brain’s systems and how some aspects were specific to certain illnesses. This study reflects there are prominent changes in the brain in case of mental illnesses which could be used as biomarkers to identify various mental disorders.

Benefits of the study

The study is said to have tremendous potential. According to Dr. Baker, with the help of the study, it will now be easier to analyze the underlying causes and symptoms of mental health disorders including schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder and also find out if there is any connection between them. In the past, many experts had suggested that mental health disorders affected certain parts of the human brain. Further, there were genetic factors that increased the risk of the development of mental disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The current study verified these and also added that functions of one of the brains higher system was always affected in case of a mental health disorder depending on the severity of the disorder, irrespective of the fact whether the illness was a serious one like psychosis or an affected disorder like depression.

Next on, Dr. Baker and his team would aim to look into the functioning of the brain’s higher system in cases related to trauma and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). According to Dr. Baker, they plan to study the brain fingerprint in different disorders and use that information while identifying mental health illnesses in individuals. He added that these biomarkers will capture changes in the functioning of the brain’s system over time and the data will be more dynamic.

Recovering from mental health disorders

According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) report, approximately 47.6 million people aged 18 years and above suffered from some form of mental health illness in the U.S. A mental health disorder can have both short- and long-term consequences on the affected individual. It is therefore, important to identify symptoms of mental health disorders and seek treatment as soon as possible.

Treatment for mental health disorders including schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder is available at reputed and licensed inpatient mental health treatment centers. If you or a loved one is battling a mental health disorder and is looking for a residential mental health center, get in touch with Medical Concierge. Call our 24/7 helpline (877) 636-0042 and speak to a member of our team. You can also chat online to a representative for more information about the mental health treatment programs offered at our mental health recovery center.

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