Tuesday, December 07, 2010

3 insights into “faulty circuits”: the malfunctioning connections underlying psychological disorders

In most areas of medicine, doctors have historically tried to glean something about the underlying cause of a patient’s illness before figuring out a treatment that addresses the source of the problem. When it came to mental or behavioral disorders in the past, however, no physical cause was detectable so the problem was long assumed by doctors to be solely “mental,” and psychological therapies followed suit.
  1. Because mental disorders such as depression display no conspicuous brain damage, they were long thought to stem from purely psychological processes.
  2. Neural imaging is revealing that abnormal activity along a circuit of brain structures involved in mental processing underlies many mental disorders, making the physical dysfunction causing the mental symptoms visible for the first time.
  3. Understanding the biology of mental disorders will clarify the sources of malfunction in a circuit, provide objective methods of diagnosis and lead to targeted treatments.
Today scientific approaches based on modern biology, neuroscience and genomics are replacing nearly a century of purely psychological theories, yielding new approaches to the treatment of mental illnesses.

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