Imaging in mental health and improving the diagnostic process

August 15, 2013, Lawson Health Research Institute
Dr. Elizabeth Osuch shares MRI brain scans that show a 'biomarker' that could help to diagnose bipolar disorder. Dr. Osuch is a Scientist at Lawson Health Research Institute and Western University, and a Psychiatrist at London Health Sciences Centre. Credit: Lawson Health Research Institute

What are some of the most troubling numbers in mental health? Six to 10—the number of years it can take to properly diagnose a mental health condition. Dr. Elizabeth Osuch, a Researcher at Lawson Health Research Institute and a Psychiatrist at London Health Sciences Centre and the Department of Psychiatry at Western University, is helping to end misdiagnosis by looking for a 'biomarker' in the brain that will help diagnose and treat two commonly misdiagnosed disorders.

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), otherwise known as Unipolar Disorder, and Bipolar Disorder (BD) are two common disorders. Currently, diagnosis is made by patient observation and verbal history. Mistakes are not uncommon, and patients can find themselves going from doctor to doctor receiving improper diagnoses and prescribed medications to little effect.

Dr. Osuch looked to identify a 'biomarker' in the brain which could help optimize the diagnostic process. She examined youth who were diagnosed with either MDD or BD (15 patients in each group) and imaged their brains with an MRI to see if there was a region of the brain which corresponded with the bipolarity index (BI). The BI is a which encompasses varying degrees of bipolar disorder, identifying symptoms and behavior in order to place a patient on the spectrum.

What she found was the activation of the putamen correlated positively with BD. This is the region of the brain that controls motor skills, and has a strong link to reinforcement and reward. This speaks directly to the symptoms of bipolar disorder. "The identification of the putamen in our positive correlation may indicate a potential trait marker for the symptoms of mania in bipolar disorder," states Dr. Osuch.

In order to reach this conclusion, the study approached research from a different angle. "The unique aspect of this research is that, instead of dividing the patients by psychiatric diagnoses of bipolar disorder and unipolar depression, we correlated their functional brain images with a measure of bipolarity which spans across a spectrum of diagnoses." Dr. Osuch explains, "This approach can help to uncover a '' for bipolarity, independent of the current mood symptoms or mood state of the patient."

Moving forward Dr. Osuch will repeat the study with more patients, seeking to prove that the activation of the putamen is the start of a trend in large numbers of patients. The hope is that one day there could be a definitive biological marker which could help differentiate the two disorders, leading to a faster diagnosis and optimal care.

In using a co-relative approach, a novel method in the field, Dr. Osuch uncovered results in patients that extend beyond verbal history and observation. These results may go on to change the way mental health is diagnosed, and subsequently treated, worldwide.

Explore further: Bipolar disorder takes different path in patients who binge eat, study suggests

Related Stories

Bipolar disorder takes different path in patients who binge eat, study suggests

July 25, 2013
Bipolar disorder evolves differently in patients who also binge eat, a study by Mayo Clinic, the Lindner Center of HOPE and the University of Minnesota found. Binge eating and obesity often are present among bipolar patients, ...

Neuroimaging may offer new way to diagnose bipolar disorder

June 5, 2013
MRI may be an effective way to diagnose mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, according to experts from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. In a landmark study using advanced techniques, the researchers were ...

Bi-polar patients 'undertreated' for common physical health problems

July 11, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Those diagnosed with bi-polar are more likely than the general population to be under-treated for common physical health problems like high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, according to new research.

Borderline personality, bipolar disorders have similar unemployment rates

December 11, 2012
Unemployment poses a significant burden on the public no matter what the cause. But for those who have been diagnosed with a psychiatric illness, chronic unemployment is often coupled with significant health care costs. A ...

Rhode Island Hospital researcher: Broadening bipolar disorder criteria is a bad idea

April 24, 2012
A Rhode Island Hospital psychiatrist and researcher explains the negative impact of broadening the diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder in the upcoming Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition ...

New research supports youth with mood and anxiety disorders

April 11, 2012
75% of mental illnesses emerge by age 25. Mood and anxiety disorders are among the most common conditions, yet there is little support for youth in this age group. A new study from Lawson Health Research Institute shows that ...

Recommended for you

One year of school comes with an IQ bump, meta-analysis shows

June 21, 2018
A year of schooling leaves students with new knowledge, and it also equates with a small but noticeable increase to students' IQ, according to a systematic meta-analysis published in Psychological Science, a journal of the ...

Mindful movement may help lower stress, anxiety

June 21, 2018
Taking a walk may be a good opportunity to mentally review your to-do list, but using the time to instead be more mindful of your breathing and surroundings may help boost your wellbeing, according to researchers.

Brain tingles—first study of its kind reveals physiological benefits of ASMR

June 21, 2018
Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) – the relaxing 'brain tingles' experienced by some people in response to specific triggers, such as whispering, tapping and slow hand movements – may have benefits for both ...

New study debunks Dale Carnegie advice to 'put yourself in their shoes'

June 21, 2018
Putting yourself in someone else's shoes and relying on intuition or "gut instinct" isn't an accurate way to determine what they're thinking or feeling," say researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), the ...

Science Says: What makes something truly addictive

June 21, 2018
Now that the world's leading public health group says too much Minecraft can be an addiction, could overindulging in chocolate, exercise, even sex, be next?

Study of 800 million tweets finds distinct daily cycles in our thinking patterns

June 20, 2018
Our mode of thinking changes at different times of the day and follows a 24-hour pattern, according to new findings published in PLOS ONE. University of Bristol researchers were able to study our thinking behaviour by analysing ...

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.