Brain Scans Could Become EKGs for Mental Disorders, by Roxanne Khamsi
In the field of depression, as in ADHD, schizophrenia, and autism, neuroimaging has been advertised as capable of becoming a diagnostic tool, and Time has even announced, “Brain Scans Could Become EKGs [electrocardiograms] for Mental Disorders” (Khamsi 2013). Everything leads the public not to notice that scans are said to correlate with those disorders only after a clinical diagnosis has been made.
Brain Scans Could Become EKGs for Mental Disorders
If EKGs can detect potential problems in heart function, then doctors are asking why brain scans can’t be used in the same way, to identify disorders like depression, autism or schizophrenia.
Doctors have long relied on EKGs, or electrocardiograms, to track the electrical activity of the heart and find any potential aberrations in the normal pattern of blips and valleys that could indicate distress. It’s not invasive, not that expensive, and for the patient, only involves getting hooked up to a few leads with patches on the chest.
Now researchers say that a similarly patient-friendly technique could scour brain activity for signs of trouble. The idea is to look for any changes in the normal “resting state” of multiple brain regions recorded by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machines. And so far, promising evidence suggests that it may be possible to detect when communication between these regions is out of sync, or otherwise different from the norm.