Is MRI Imaging the Answer for Diagnosing Mental Illnesses?

Daniel Lende’s article “Common Brain Mechanisms in Mental Illness” discusses in detail the neurological brain areas that are commonly associated with mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, depression, addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety and schizophrenia. The company, JAMA Psychiatry, whom did MRI imaging of 7,381 individuals that fall into this category conducted the study he outlines.

They specifically focused on the areas called the dorsal anterior cingulate, right insula and left insula. These areas are used for higher-order processing in things like concentrating in the face of distraction, multitasking, planning, decision-making and inhibitions.

The study found that people that fall under those categories of mental illness have gray matter loss in those certain brain areas, compared to healthy individuals. To me, does this conclude that these areas are certainly responsible for these mental illnesses? Although this evidence seems convincing, it is still tough to say. There could be any number of factors that could lead to these illnesses, including genetics.

Has our medical society come too depended on the somewhat new science of MRI technology? Some would argue that it is new age phrenology, searching for areas associated with brain disorders, and blindly assigning brain areas specific meanings. Regardless, there is no doubt that fMRI imaging holds its water, but it will be very interesting to see where it goes in the future.