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January 24, 2006

Finding bipolar disorder with MRI

A special series of articles is now available on the MIT technology review web site. Their focus is "feature on brain imaging techniques that could lead to improved diagnosis of psychiatric ailments"

One of the leaders in the effort to enlist MRI in the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric ailments is John Port at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Port is a neuroradiologist who began his career by studying electrical engineering and computer science at MIT and later earned a PhD in cell biology and an MD from the University of Illinois. So he's in a good position to research both basic MRI technology and its applications to medicine.

Port's work on MRI could have broad application in psychiatry, but for now he is concentrating on his particular interest: bipolar disorder. Also called manic-depression, bipolar disorder is characterized by mood swings from wild exuberance to profound depression, with periods of stability in between. X-rays or conventional MRIs show no difference between the brains of people with bipolar disorder and those without it; medical journals are littered with failed attempts to use imaging to find distinctive signs of the disease.

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