Brain chemistry analysis is being born as I write.
Scientists have understood something of the chemical imbalances underlying mental health problems, but making meaningful chemical measurements in the brain has not always been easy because of the small size of synapses and the inaccessibility of the brain.
Recent breakthroughs are now advancing knowledge. In 2006, University of Michigan scientists developed a sensor that will monitor levels of neurotransmitters in a patient’s brain. The device has enabled them to study chemical changes associated with behaviour and disease.
Last year, researchers at the University of Cambridge identified specific biomarkers for schizophrenia. The team looked for psychosis-associated changes in the fluid which circulates around the brain and spinal cord. Their results showed that levels of some proteins and peptides were elevated in schizophrenic patients. They also saw characteristic changes in samples taken from patients with depression.
The identification of specific biomarkers could redefine the diagnosis of psychotic disorders, which is currently very subjective. Biomarkers may also help to distinguish between different mental health conditions which is not always possible to do at present.
The future potential of the discovery of biomarkers for mental illnesses is immense. Improved treatments and preventative medicines might all develop from such early research.
The author of the article is being a little hyperbolic about actual interpretations of diagnostic abilities at the moment. Like the research on ADHD, interpretation is still primitive and not predictive, much less confirming, but is a significant step.
Claims to treat depression for instance describe serotonin uptake this and dopamine that are not based on brain chemistry or levels, but blood levels and outward behavior and reporting. Great strides yes, and invaluable for many, but hardly accurate and measured as regards brain chemistry.
The pushing of meds as a cure for what ails you has become a standard we all use, and is something I have written also in comments. What often is missed in conversation about the economic part of big pharma profits schemes and payments and doctor ‘collusion’ or ‘acceptance’ is the ethical standard of prescribing medications on such a huge scale, often for non-researched age groups, off label uses, and as a first line treatment without good lengthy histories, informed consent, family supports and such that are necessary as well.
Patients come and request certain meds as well, which requires the same evaluation if the doc has time.
It reminds me of throwing round dice sometimes as we claim knowledge we do not have.