What is Mental Illness?

  • What is mental illness?
  • How does detection of brain function related to mental illness via brain function (EEG) biomarkers help?

What is mental illness? 

Our understanding of mental illness and how we define mental illness has varied over the years. We are coming to a much better understanding than we have in the past.  For a description, see the video below put together by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Montana (USA).

How does detection of brain function related to mental illness help?

Ultimately, better detection and categorization of brain function will help us more quickly make diagnoses, and then ultimately find better treatments.

One of the fundamental problems in dealing with mental illness is actually in the identification and categorization of the mental illness; it is hard to quickly and accurately determine how a person's brain might be functioning or malfunctioning, and to identify exactly what brain circuits are involved. The goal of detection is to: (i) identify that there is a problem, and understand the detailed characteristics of the problem (the detail about how the brain is malfunctioning and what circuits are involved) so that we can understand how to address the problem.  We can begin to understand what is malfunctioning in the brain by measuring the brain's electrical activity.

For many years, brain function based biomarkers (electroencephalographic biomarkers), derived from the measured electrical activity of the brain, have been investigated and showed as a promising way of helping in the diagnosis of problems. However, only recently, given advances in our technological capabilities and understanding of brain function, have we come close to being able to better identify specific brain function in related to specific mental illness and neurodegenerative disease.

The NeuroAccelerator.org program is all about identifying what brain function and electrical activity are related to which mental illness and to learn what brain circuitry is malfunctioning in each mental illness.

For a look into the future of mental illness assessment and early detection, see a short (futuristic; currently fiction but not necessarily fiction for long) story written by NAMI Montana's Director, Matt Kuntz: http://www.namimontana.blogspot.ca/2012/10/a-peek-at-future-mental-illness-early.html