The Big Change Coming to Mental Health

The National Institute of Mental Health has unveiled a five-year strategic plan emphasizing research it hopes will ultimately give clinicians a better understanding of what mental illness looks like inside the brain — before a patient shows outward symptoms.

The plan signals investment to figure out the genes associated with mental illness, develop new treatments based on those findings, make sure research findings are eventually implemented into practice and find brain patterns for a range of disorders…

“They’re looking for a perfect indicator before intervention, but is anyone noticing what’s going on with mammograms and other imperfect early indicators that work well enough, but have flaws? Elevated cholesterol levels don’t necessarily mean you’ll have a heart attack,” and the same will be true for mental illness, said William McFarlane, director at the Center for Psychiatric Research at the Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine.

Will the brains of patients who suffer from, say, bipolar disorder, really look the same?  Be similar enough to define early indicators?  Somehow, I doubt it.

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