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Ask the Experts

Question:

Are the results from brain imaging helpful in diagnosing thought and/or brain disorders?

Answered by: Bradley Peterson

Usually brain imaging studies at present are not helpful in making psychiatric or neurological diagnoses.

For unusual clinical presentation, or for illnesses that begin in infancy or in early childhood, however, brain imaging studies can provide important clues about the contributing causes of the illness in a minority of cases (e.g. obstetrical or perinatal complications, past infection, past hemorrhage). For thought disorder in particular, brain imaging studies are not usually helpful diagnostically.

With all of these caveats, it is worth noting that recent efforts in brain imaging research do suggest that new imaging techiques may prove useful in the future in making clinical diagnoses.