It is widely believed that psychiatric illnesses are disorders of the brain. In the past 30 years many neuroimaging techniques have been successfully developed to investigate the brain of the living patient. Among those, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) represents a unique noninvasive technology for imaging of brain structure and function without exposing patients to potentially harmful radiation. Structural MRI quantifies shape and size of brain structures while functional MRI explores differences in brain blood oxygenation as an indirect readout of activity.
Studies that have used MRI technology extensively reported both structural and functional alterations in various psychiatric disorders. However, these brain alterations are subtle and distributed in nature, thus limiting the utility of MRI in the clinical management of these disorders. IMAGEMEND will attempt to address this problem through statistical integration of neuroimaging data with genetic, clinic and environmental data in order to obtain “multimodal profiles” to differentiate diagnosis and predict the course of psychiatric illnesses.
Finally, IMAGEMEND will be utilizing neuroimaging technology to advance the development of a real-time functional MRI based neurofeedback that represents an entirely new treatment modality for psychiatric disorders. Specifically, using this integrated imaging system, patients will be able to directly and non-invasively modify illness relevant brain circuits. This will open a new avenue for psychiatric intervention in addition to the currently available pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy.