About this author
Zack Lynch is author of The Neuro Revolution: How Brain Science Is Changing Our World (St. Martin's Press, July 2009).
He is the founder and executive director of the Neurotechnology Industry Organization (NIO) and co-founder of NeuroInsights. He serves on the advisory boards of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies, Science Progress, and SocialText, a social software company. Please send newsworthy items or feedback - to Zack Lynch.
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April 17, 2003

Neurotechnology will Define Mental Disorders

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Psychiatric Times has a revealing article this month that is before its time: Dump the DSM. The DSM, short for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, is the leading resource used by mental health professionals to define mental illnesses.

In its 50-year history, the DSM has been significantly updated four times--in 1968, in 1980, in 1987, and in 1994.  The diagnoses of mental disorders contained within the DSM are made using specific criteria and are considered as reliable as those for physical medical problems.  The reality is they are not.

The problem with the DSM’s descriptions of mental illnesses is that they are top down.  By this I mean that mental disorders are defined primarily via evaluation of externally observed symptoms through the perception of the practicing psychiatrist against a checklist contained in the DSM.

As information from biochips and brain imaging technology becomes available it will be possible to diagnose mental disorders from the bottom up.  That is, from the precise neural chemical imbalances that actually exist, rather than through externally observed behaviors.  Moreover, neuroceuticals will make it possible to treat those imbalances accurately.

The DSM was a good first step, but soon it will be time to dump the DSM.

Comments (1) | Category: Mental Health Issues


1. Bob Collier on January 15, 2004 2:53 AM writes...

Sounds plausible, but, since most of the so-called 'mental disorders' in the DSM appear to be a figment of the APA's narrow and poorly constructed perception of human behaviour to begin with and not actually disorders in any scientific sense of that word, it seems to me that the identification through the use of biochips and brain imaging technology of any alleged "precise neural chemical imbalances" will most likely be based on politics rather than science. So no change from the DSM to look forward to, is it? Whatever you may claim to the contrary, Zack, what constitutes a 'mental disorder' will still be a matter of one neuroscientist's opinion against another's as to which chemicals are 'in balance' and which are 'out of balance'.

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