Classifying neural circuit dysfunctions using neuroeconomics

July 24, 2012

The traditional approach to psychiatric diagnosis is based on grouping patients on the basis of symptom clusters. This approach to diagnosis has a number of problems, as symptoms are not necessarily specific to a single diagnosis. Symptoms may vary among patients with a particular diagnosis, and there are no clear diagnostic biomarkers or tests for psychiatry as there are for other areas of medicine.

With this in mind, Steve Chang, along with colleagues from Duke University, introduces a new classification scheme for based on the state of a dysfunctional neural circuit. This is a thought-provoking proposal altering the way science thinks about psychiatric disorders, all of which have been found to have some form of dysfunction.

The authors focus on two kinds of . Variance-shifted functionality is a condition by which a damaged circuit continues to function, but not at its optimal capacity. State-shifted functionality, on the other hand, is when the function of the circuit is either completely absent or altered in such a way that its output is functionally different.

They discuss these deficits from the perspective of neuroeconomics, an interdisciplinary field that studies the process of decision-making, and related investigations in animals.

"This paper suggests a future in which a cluster of important symptoms for some psychopathology is isolated, classified according to the information-based scheme outlined by Chang et al. and then used to guide the production of a exhibiting deficits in a contributing ," commented neuroeconomics expert P. Read Montague at Virginia Tech. "These possibilities are quite exciting not only because of the possible insights into basic mechanisms, but also because of the potentially fruitful interplay with clinical applications."

"Every day, millions of people struggle with mental illness. While great progress has been made in our understanding of , we lack an adequate framework for connecting mental illness with the underlying problems in the brain," saidstudy's first author Steve Chang, postdoctoral fellow at Duke University and member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences. "Our understanding of electrical circuits and recent animal studies in the field of neuroeconomics provides novel insights into the ways neural circuits might fail, resulting in specific symptoms. Our hope is that these insights spur new research and ideas in the treatment of mental disorders."

"In an era where psychiatry hopes to draw tighter links between brain biology and diagnosis, it is important to find ways to begin the discussion about how this might be accomplished," commented Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry. This study is a step in that direction.

Explore further: Using neuroeconomics to study psychiatry

More information: The article is "Mechanistic Classification of Neural Circuit Dysfunctions: Insights from Neuroeconomics Research in Animals" by Steve W.C. Chang, David L. Barack, and Michael L. Platt (doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2012.02.017). The article appears in Biological Psychiatry, Volume 72, Issue 2 (July 15, 2012)

Related Stories

Using neuroeconomics to study psychiatry

July 19, 2012
Neuroeconomics experts and guest editors of the Biological Psychiatry special issue Carla Sharp, John Monterosso, and P. Read Montague in an introductory paper define neuroeconomics as "an interdisciplinary field that brings ...

Neuroeconomics to study decision-making in anxious individuals

July 23, 2012
Anxiety disorders affect approximately 40 million American adults each year, and although they are treatable, they often cause significant distress.

Experts say psychiatry's diagnostic manual needs overhaul

May 16, 2012
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), long the master reference work in psychiatry, is seriously flawed and needs radical change from its current "field guide" form, according to an essay by two ...

Study links mental health problems to poor prognosis in male cancer patients

May 24, 2012
Men suffering from psychiatric problems when diagnosed with cancer are more likely to die from the disease, according to a new study part-funded by the Wellcome Trust. The findings also reveal that those with psychiatric ...

Holding a mirror to brain changes in autism

March 2, 2012
Impaired social function is a cardinal symptom of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). One of the brain circuits that enable us to relate to other people is the "mirror neuron" system. This brain circuit is activated when we ...

The neuroscience of choosing: Can we understand how the brain makes decisions?

September 15, 2011
Although still a young field, research in "decision neuroscience" has exploded in the last decade, with scientists beginning to decipher what exactly is happening in our brains when we are making choices, whether big or small.

Recommended for you

Probing how Americans think about mental life

October 20, 2017
When Stanford researchers asked people to think about the sensations and emotions of inanimate or non-human entities, they got a glimpse into how those people think about mental life.

Itsy bitsy spider: Fear of spiders and snakes is deeply embedded in us

October 19, 2017
Snakes and spiders evoke fear and disgust in many people, even in developed countries where hardly anybody comes into contact with them. Until now, there has been debate about whether this aversion is innate or learnt. Scientists ...

Inflamed support cells appear to contribute to some kinds of autism

October 18, 2017
Modeling the interplay between neurons and astrocytes derived from children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in Brazil, say innate ...

Study suggests psychedelic drugs could reduce criminal behavior

October 18, 2017
Classic psychedelics such as psilocybin (often called magic mushrooms), LSD and mescaline (found in peyote) are associated with a decreased likelihood of antisocial criminal behavior, according to new research from investigators ...

Taking probiotics may reduce postnatal depression

October 18, 2017
Researchers from the University of Auckland and Otago have found evidence that a probiotic given in pregnancy can help prevent or treat symptoms of postnatal depression and anxiety.

Schizophrenia disrupts the brain's entire communication system, researchers say

October 17, 2017
Some 40 years since CT scans first revealed abnormalities in the brains of schizophrenia patients, international scientists say the disorder is a systemic disruption to the brain's entire communication system.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.