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

New research has revealed we are actually better at remembering names than faces

November 14, 2018
With the Christmas party season fast approaching, there will be plenty of opportunity to re-live the familiar, and excruciatingly-awkward, social situation of not being able to remember an acquaintance's name.

Older adults' abstract reasoning ability predicts depressive symptoms over time

November 14, 2018
Age-related declines in abstract reasoning ability predict increasing depressive symptoms in subsequent years, according to data from a longitudinal study of older adults in Scotland. The research is published in Psychological ...

The illusion of multitasking boosts performance

November 13, 2018
Our ability to do things well suffers when we try to complete several tasks at once, but a series of experiments suggests that merely believing that we're multitasking may boost our performance by making us more engaged in ...

Brain changes found in self-injuring teen girls

November 13, 2018
The brains of teenage girls who engage in serious forms of self-harm, including cutting, show features similar to those seen in adults with borderline personality disorder, a severe and hard-to-treat mental illness, a new ...

Major traumatic injury increases risk of mental health diagnoses, suicide

November 12, 2018
People who experience major injuries requiring hospital admission, such as car crashes and falls, are at substantially increased risk of being admitted to hospital for mental health disorders, found a study in CMAJ (Canadian ...

Nearly one in ten Americans struggles to control sexual urges

November 9, 2018
(HealthDay)—The #MeToo movement has given many Americans a glimpse into an unfamiliar world that may have left many wondering, "What were they thinking?"

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.