Thursday, February 16, 2012

Scientists teach computers to assess psychiatric risk

LONDON (REUTERS) - Computer programmes can be taught to select between brain scans of healthy young people and scans showing adolescents who are at higher risk of developing mental disorders such as anxiety and depression, scientists said on Thursday.
In a study in the Public Library of Science (PLoS) ONE journal, British researchers said their findings suggest it may be possible to design programmes to predict which at-risk adolescents will go on to have psychiatric problems, giving doctors more time to intervene before illnesses set in.
'Combining machine learning and neuroimaging, we have a technique which shows enormous potential to help us identify which adolescents are at true risk of developing anxiety and mood disorders, especially where there is limited clinical or genetic information,' said Janaina Mourao-Miranda of University College London, who led the study.

Depression and other psychiatric disorders are a major cause of death, disability and economic burden worldwide. The World Health Organisation predicts that by 2020, depression alone will be the second leading contributor to the global burden of disease across all ages.

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