Can neuroimaging contribute to the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders?
Biological psychiatry has created fascinating neurobiological models of mental disorders, based on the integration of molecular, cellular, animal modelling and human studies. However, it has not yet produced clinically viable biomarkers for any of the major psychiatric disease, and although pharmacological treatment is often effective, it evolved largely serendipitously (Linden 2012a). Neuroimaging might aid biological psychiatry to the much needed translation from models to clinical evidence and new treatments. Through the high spatial resolution of MRI, the high molecular sensitivity of radioligand imaging and the exquisite temporal resolution of EEG and MEG we can in principle track structural, clinical and dynamic changes in patients’ brains. These techniques have provided important insight into the mechanisms of certain symptoms of mental illness, but not yet produced any stable diagnostic or outcome markers for clinical psychiatry. I will discuss the challenges faced by psychiatric neuroimaging research, including heterogeneities of study populations and difficulty of quantification, and some promising avenues for future research (Linden, 2012b). I will finally present examples from our own work where we take real-time functional imaging into a clinical setting to promote neuroplasticity (Subramanian et al., 2011). Linden D. The Biology of Psychological Disorders. Palgrave Macmillan 2012a. Linden D. The Challenges and Promise of Neuroimaging in Psychiatry. Neuron 2012b. Subramanian L, Hindle J, Johnston S, Roberts M, Husain M, Goebel R, Linden DEJ, Real-time fMRI Neurofeedback for Treatment of Parkinson's Disease. J Neurosci, 2011.