Study Claims to Diagnose Bipolar Disorder via Brain Scan

Researchers found that they could diagnose bipolar disorder with 72-73% accuracy, depending on sample. Principle investigator Dr. Sophia Frangou said this “level of accuracy… is comparable to that of many other tests used in medicine.” Such findings are a boon to the National Institute of Mental Health’s (NIMH) new initiative for brain-based psychiatric diagnosis.

Of course, determining accurate boundaries of major mental disorders remains nebulous territory. For a new biological test to be considered accurate, it must coincide with the existing metric of diagnosis by symptom (as in the DSM-5), the very method NIMH is criticizing as outdated and inaccurate. The danger in any new diagnostic measure is that it becomes reified as a precise, standalone instrument while carrying forward the deficits of its predecessor. Fortunately, Dr. Frangou explicitly states that the brain-scan method they are developing “does not undermine the importance of rigorous clinical assessment and the importance of building relationships with patients.” This sentiment, at least, is something all camps should feel comfortable rallying behind.


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