Mental and degenerative disorders are among the most costly and common causes of disability in society today. Because the brain is the most complex organ in the human body, diagnosing and treating problems when things go wrong poses enormous challenges. Even before the 1990s was designated the Decade of the Brain, the potential of neuroimaging—the technology that makes it possible to see inside the working brain—was a major focus in psychiatry. Since that time, expectations have been high that neuroimaging would move the needle forward in unraveling the mystery of mental illness.
Living in a time of such national programs as the BRAIN Initiative and Human Connectome Project, we’ve become accustomed to hearing terms such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and brain-machine interface. In light of the exponential increase in computational and algorithmic power, one can only assume that we have made great progress via psychiatric neuroimaging. But just how far have we actually come in the last half-century? How close are we to having neuroimaging-based tools that can be used in the clinic? Have we learned anything about diagnosis or mental illness from the vast trove of neuroimaging data that has been collected over the years? I wish I could point to specific examples where the widening use of neuroimaging is beginning to help the mentally ill, but we are just not there yet. » Keep reading the excellent article The Promise of Big Data Imaging for Mental Health over at Dana Foundation’s Cerebrum.