fMRI Brain Scans Predict Patient Response to Anti-Psychotic Medications; First-Time Such Results “Open Door for Precision Medicine Approaches to Psychiatry”

Investigators at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhassett, New York have discovered that brain scans can be used to predict patients' response to antipsychotic drug treatment. The findings are published online on August 28, 2015 in The American Journal of Psychiatry. The article is titled “Baseline Striatal Functional Connectivity as a Predictor of Response to Antipsychotic Drug Treatment.” Psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, are characterized by delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized thoughts and behavior. These disorders are estimated to occur in up to three percent of the population and are a leading cause for disability worldwide. Psychotic episodes are currently treated with antipsychotic drugs, but this treatment is given without guidance from lab tests or brain scans, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Doctors often use "trial-and-error" approach when choosing treatment for psychotic disorders, without knowing if patients will respond well. This lack of knowledge places a large burden on not only patients and their families, but also on healthcare professionals and healthcare systems. Led by Anil Malhotra, M.D., Director of Psychiatry Research at Zucker Hillside Hospital and an Investigator at the Feinstein Institute, and Todd Lencz, Ph.D., Associate Investigator at the Zucker Hillside Hospital and the Feinstein Institute, researchers used fMRI scans obtained before treatment to predict ultimate response to medications in patients suffering from their first episode of schizophrenia. Connectivity patterns of a region of the brain called the striatum, which tends to be atypical in patients suffering from psychotic disorders, were used to create an index. This index significantly predicted if psychotic symptoms were decreased in the studies' patients.
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