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Neuroimaging Technique Aids Understanding of Depression and Anxiety Disorder


        An overlap of clinical symptomsbetween major depressive disorder (MDD) and social anxiety disorder (SAD)suggests that the two disorders exhibit similar brain mechanisms. However, fewstudies have directly compared the brain structures of the two disorders. Dr.Youjin Zhao, from Prof. Dr. Qiyong Gong’s research group at the Institute ofHuaxi MR Research Center (HMRRC) of West China Hospital of Sichuan Universitydiscovered that the MDD and SAD shared a common pattern of gray matterabnormalities in the orbitofrontal-striatal-thalamic circuit, salience networkand dorsal attention network. These consistent structural differences in thetwo patient groups may contribute to the broad spectrum of emotional, cognitiveand behavioral disturbances observed in MDD patients and SAD patients. MDDpatients showed disorder-specific involvement of the visual processing regions.SAD patients showed disorder-specific involvement of the precentral cortex.These findings provide new evidence regarding the shared and specificneuropathological mechanisms that underlie MDD and SAD. Their results were publishedin EBioMedicine, whose two leading brands are The Lancet and Cell Press. At thesame time, Dr. Andreas Frick, from the Department of Psychology of UppsalaUniversity, has commissioned a Commentary article on this paper. He commentedthat the paper by Zhao et al. (in press) represents a welcome contribution tothe field by investigating two different aspects of brain structure in the sameindividuals and only including non-comorbid and treatment-naïve patients. 

        Imaging findings and post-mortemanalyses have contributed to the understanding of biological pathophysiologyand the underlying neural mechanisms of mental illnesses. Some authors haverecently suggested that imaging may change the diagnostic structure inpsychiatry. “Psychoradiology is a term that describes a growing intersectionbetween the fields of psychiatry and medical imaging”, explains professor Gong,“In clinical scenario, this term indicates the use of radiologic approaches inpsychiatric illnesses, spanning from diagnosis to planning and monitoringtreatment. Analogous to the Psychosurgery of surgery for mental disorders, itis an emerging branch of radiology in close association with the neuroradiologyfor neurology. 

  “With the advent of ‘bigdata’ and the exponential increase in IT processing power and speed, hugequantities of brain structure and function information are able to becollated,” said Su Lui, M.D. Ph.D., lead scientist on the project at the HMRRC.“We plan to integrate multimodal images to investigate correlations anddifferences between different imaging modalities. It is very likely amultimodal template for research in psychiatry will eventually guide groundlevel diagnosis and treatment of mental illness in the future.”


Web Extras: 

Access the EBioMedicine study,“Gray matter abnormalities in non-comorbid medication-naive patients with majordepressive disorder or social anxiety disorder”,https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28633986 

For more information onpsychoradiology, go to https://radiopaedia.org/articles/psychoradiology