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Great Potential Seen In Scanning Brains For “Mental Illness”

Some scientists are exploring the uses of brain scans in the detection and treatment of people labeled “mentally ill”. Media-Newswire has an article on the subject, Brain imaging gives new insight into mental disorders.

A new kind of psychiatry built on objective measures derived from functional magnetic resonance imaging ( or fMRI ) of the brain performed while patients play economic games could provide new insight into the diagnosis and, eventually, treatment of mental disorders, said researchers from Baylor College of Medicine in a review in the current issue of the journal Neuron.

Brain scans are used to explore the level of blood flow in different areas of the brain; increased blood flow indicates increased cognitive activity.

Not only will these brain scans be used in the labeling of “mental disorders”, researchers are also looking into the possibility of diagnosing and studying “normality” disorder through the use of these same machines.

These new tools will not only help produce new brain “signatures” associated with disorders such as autism, schizophrenia and borderline personality, they will also help identify the nature of normal variation in human decision making and the brain, said Dr. P. Read Montague, professor of neuroscience and director of the Computational Psychiatry Unit at BCM, and Dr. Kenneth T. Kishida, a postdoctoral fellow in the area.

They’ve found borderline personality disorder, they think.

In a crucial prior study, King-Casas and others at BCM identified a characteristic fMRI “signal” that distinguished borderline personality disorder – a disorder that is extremely hard to diagnose – from psychologically healthy controls.

The objective of these brain imaging studies seems to be directed at trying to determine the genes behind the “illness”, based on a more surefire method of determining the “illness”. One of the problems with this objective is that we haven’t yet determined that genes lie behind the “illness”.

Oh, well. Details…

One could easily imagine drug companies pouring money into such research. Alright, researchers are selling brain scan devices, yes, but once the brain is scanned, and the genes are identified, drug companies have got the drugs to maintain “the disorder”. If “the disorder” is genetic in origin, there is little a patient can do, of course, except pay drug companies for the chemical compounds to subdue it. So the theory runs anyway.

I would reckon “normality” must be equated with conformity, and so we could also be well on the way to “curing” an intransigent Western world of it’s treatment resistant democratic tendencies through the use of this and other such deviant detection devices.