Psychopharmacology and Mental Health
Observing biomarkers is a new type of diagnostic procedure that can be a very useful tool for healthcare practitioners. As noted above, biomarkers are very complex—since there is not just one abnormality that contributes to severe mental illness, but a combination of various abnormalities. Interestingly, certain electrophysiological biomarkers can show the failure of connectivity among neurons and abnormal neuronal processing (Nenadic, 2015), and are found by using a quantitative electroencephalography (qEEG), or a brain map, which is a precise tool in locating brain dysregulation. Biomarkers commonly found in schizophrenics are characterized by frontal lobe deficits, or hyperfrontality. A qEEG processes recorded EEG activity from a multi-electrode recording using a computer with specialized software. Finally, many types of brain imaging techniques can be used to view these abnormalities in brain activity. These can be detected using a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) (Nenadic, 2015). An fMRI uses a fast chain of MRI images to monitor blood flow in the brain detecting areas of activity.
Another brain imaging technique is called Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT imaging), and is a procedure widely used to study brain issues. It uses a radioactive substance and a special camera to look at 3D images of the brain and measure cerebral blood flow. A common functional abnormality found in a patient who exhibits signs of psychosis is less of an increase in blood flow to the prefrontal cortex (PFC) while performing cognitive tasks that require executive functioning (Nenadic, 2015). Functional imaging data of schizophrenics suggests that there is decreased activation in the PFC when trying to preform cognitive tasks. Another biomarker for individuals who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia is abnormal eye movements. This abnormality is known as smooth-pursuit eye movements and is known as a biomarker of hypofrontality (Meyer, 2019). In individuals with schizophrenia, their eyes tend to dart and then attempt to readjust when tracking an object. This shows that there are obvious deficits in controlling eye movements. Furthermore, this finding suggests that there must be some dysregulation in the frontal eye fields (FEFs), which are located in the PFC (Meyer, 2019).
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