Researcher Develops Technique for Quick Diagnosis of Mental Conditions

Is it really as easy to detect depression and other mental conditions as it is to detect a heart problem? It may be as a diagnostic technique invented by a Monash University researcher could make diagnosis and treatment a much more simple and rapid task. A recent Science Daily post features a summary of the electrovestibulography, developed by Monash biomedical engineer Brian Lithgow. Described as the ECG for the mind, this technique measures patterns of electrical activity in the brain’s vestibular (or balance) system and measures them against distinct response patterns found in depression, schizophrenia and other Central Nervous System (CNS) disorders. Lithgow recognized the potential of measuring and comparing different patterns of electrovestibular activity as the vestibular system is closely connected to the primitive regions of the brain. By teaming up with corporate partner Neural Diagnostics and working with psychiatry researchers at Monash University’s Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre (MAPrc) in Melbourne, Australia, Lithgow has developed a simple, quick and inexpensive screening process for CNS diseases. “The patient sits in a specially designed tilt chair that triggers electrical responses in their balance system. A gel-tipped electrode placed in the individual’s ear canal silences interfering noise so that these meaningful electrical responses are captured and recorded,” the Monash researcher said. “The responses are then compared to the distinct biomarkers indicative of particular CNS disorders, allowing diagnosis to be made in under an hour.” The technique is already attracting international interest as it can not only speed diagnosis and treatment, it can also save considerable cost associated with mental diagnosis. It could also easily be the first time that engineering and psychiatry work well together to produce a beneficial result.

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