Psychiatrists have more analytic technologies available than ever before, and psychiatry and psychology may be on the cusp of a shift as dramatic as the advent of post-Freudian pharmacology. Following are three emerging fields that could revolutionize the way mental illness is diagnosed, treated, and understood.
A recent study in Molecular Psychiatry finds that genetic differences can predict how anxious children respond to cognitive behavior therapy. Christopher Beevers, a psychologist at the University of Texas, Austin, suggests that genotyping be a routine part of psychosocial research. The hope is for treatments tailored to a specific genetic profile.
Traditional psychoanalysis elevates the mind above the brain, while neuroscience does just the opposite. Neuropsychoanalysis uses tools from both fields to try to crack the complexity of human behavior. By studying basic emotions in the brains of animals, for example, scientists can understand the biological variations of anxiety in humans, explains Jaak Panksepp, a neuroscientist at Washington State University.
Today, it is hard to bridge the gap between physiological markers and clinical descriptions of mental illness. Computational psychiatrists like P. Read Montague at Virginia Tech aim to sharpen diagnosis by aggregating and analyzing thousands of pieces of data—MRI images of the brain, genetic markers, observed behaviors—from a wide variety of patients. The end goal is a full empirical picture of what a given mental illness looks like in the brain, in everyday life, and even in your DNA.