Brain Scanning

June 8, 2007

Today was not quite so good as yesterday – but I’ll gladly take it over the other days I had this week. One issue that came up today, and it’s come up a lot lately, is trying to judge whether or not an angry reaction is justified or not … for me, I’ve learned to wait a day or two and see if I’m still outraged by something. The problem with this is that it means I either risk reacting too quickly to something that I realize was nothing only a few days afterward – or I swallow my reactions down until it’s basically too late to react at all.

Anyway, I stumbled across this article today, from Psych Central News, about how new neuroimaging techniques may be used not only to pin down the underlying cause for bipolar disorder (and other psychiatric disorders); but also as a diagnostic tool, so doctors could more effectively screen for these disorders before the full onslaught of symptoms present themselves.  I see this as being something worth developing, although I can also see where something like this might open up a can of worms.

First, the good news is that if this technology might help to pin down the underlying causes of bipolar disorder, it might just help researchers move toward a cure. I understand something like that would be a long way away; but it could also lead to more effective treatments of symptoms along the way. I think it’s also good that such scans could be used in an almost proactive way, identifying the disorder in someone before the disorder has enough time to waste, ruin or end someone’s life. The other thing I’m keeping in mind is along the lines of the concluding remarks in a John McManamy article, titled “Brain Scans:”

“The next time you encounter a skeptic who tells you your illness is all in your head, you may want to download and print brain scans and keep them handy for future encounters. At the very least, these images eloquently portray in a way that words cannot that our illness is demonstrably real.” 

Such scans could help to combat the stigma surrounding bipolar disorder; but, in the wrong environment, such scans could also alienate people who are not yet experiencing symptoms. We live in an age now where credit checks are done for job candidates, or for people who wish to adopt a child – what if brain scans were also to become a legitimate part of the selection process? Psychological evaluations already exist, brain scans could take such evaluations to much higher levels, and preclude gifted and talented people from participating in jobs and activities, rather than include, before a single symptom were ever experienced.



  1. I have always found the same thing to be a point of double-edged fascination with regard to brain scans and bipolar disorder: as an individual WITH bipolar disorder, I would love to have it available in order to know more about my neurological architecture, however, I don’t think that such things should be done randomly in order to scan people for possible defects that might indicate bipolar disorder as a diagnosis…make sense? That’s the trouble with technology these days falling into the wrong hands or being used too freely…*sigh*.

  2. K, your way of seeing this as a double-edged sword makes perfect sense to me – I think we see it the same way, actually. From my perspective, it would make more sense to make sure that the stigma surrounding brain illnesses (I’m pretty much done with considering BD as a mental disorder) has been reasonably dealt with before introducing scanning techniques such as are now being developed into the general public.

    I don’t think preventing these scans is possible, nor do I think it’s a responsible position (people who can be identified early are entitled to being made aware of their condition, and treated) – in this regard, I’m mainly looking at them as being an encouragement to increase education and awareness, and to reduce stigma, before the scans become available for use by broader segments of society. However far away we are from having to undergo these kinds of scans to get a job should serve as an effective timeline for us to do what we can to reduce the stigma surrounding BD and other related illnesses.

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