An Australian study has found mental health disorders may be able to be diagnosed through radiology results, potentially shaking up the entire mental health treatment industry.
Currently, mental disorders can largely only be diagnosed through measuring chemical levels in the brain.
However, Dr Kartik Bhatia of the University of Sydney yesterday presented research to the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists in Adelaide that his study found "significant variations in brain connectivity in patients with mood and psychotic disorders".
Bhatia told The Huffington Post Australia the brains of patients with depression and psychosis had noticeable physical differences to people without the conditions.
"The hypothesis was most psychological diseases were due to changes in the white matter in the connections in the brain, particularly the frontal and temporal lobes. We did some MRI imaging to look at the white matter and see what the connectivity was like," he said.
"We found, in an area implicated in depression, there was a track next to it. People with depression have reduced connectivity in that track, which might be an anatomical basis for mood and psychological disorders."
Such variations in the brain are said to be present from the onset of the mental condition, rather than a degenerative symptom.
Bhatia said the study size was not large enough to draw any wide-ranging conclusions or recommendations, but said with further research and larger test groups, the findings could eventually lead to more effective ways of diagnosing or treating mental health issues.
"If proven in bigger studies, it could be used in adolescents presenting with early symptoms, if doctors are not sure if they have teen angst or an early mood disorder," he said.
"In the U.S. they are using deep brain stimulation for depression. This could help for targeting, to find the exact place to put the electrodes."
"It is a long way off us using it on a day-to-day basis, but already psychiatrists said they have found it useful. We are looking toward a diagnostic tool in the next 10 or 15 years, but it is not ready now. It needs larger studies."