Scientific Looking, Looking At Science

Use of Internal Imaging in Understanding Mental Illness

           2. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, also known as the DSM has been used as a way to diagnose mental disorders for many years. The problem is that as research advances the knowledge of these disorders the book is no longer accurate. The DSM has gone through five different revisions since its first release. The other problem is that the symptoms that one exhibits might not always be by the book. The rise of the use of MRI’s and other types of brain scans to supplement external symptoms is very beneficial to provide accurate diagnoses as well as further understanding of these diseases’ effect on the body as well as be used in court situation when mental illness is called into question.
            When a new DSM is released, it is quite likely that it will have different criteria for diagnosing individuals. The symptoms that need to be seen to diagnose someone with depression in one revision may be entirely different than that of another. According to Greg Miller’s journal article in Science, “the DSM-IV diagnosis of major depression requires that a patient have at least five of nine possible symptoms. In this scenario, it’s possible for two patients to receive the same diagnosis with only one symptom in common” (1437).  This means that there is potential for inaccurate diagnoses of patients. That could lead to the wrong treatment of the patient and little improvement of their condition.  The researchers that have collaborated to revise the book have said, “there’s still too little known about the biological basis of mental illness and as a result DSM continues to be based on symptoms rather than causes” (Miller 1437). This is where internal imaging can help. The use of an MRI, or Magnetic Resonance Imaging, can allow the researchers to look at the brains of their patients. Through the use of highly powerful magnets, doctors are able to see soft tissue, including that of the brain (Hinkle 24CC). It is not meant to entirely take over the analysis of external symptoms but use the brain scans as a way to aid research. If researchers were to get a sample of a population with a particular mental illness, then compare all of their brain scans. They could then set up a guide to diagnosing mental illness based on external symptoms as well as brain structures and abnormalities.
            There have been accounts of people in court pleading insanity as a defense for their case. The problem is that to be able to prove that one suffers from a legitimate mental illness is not that easy. Whether the person is proven guilty or not is important to know whether they do in fact suffer from such diseases. In 1998, a boy name Kip Kinkel shot and killed both of his parents as well as two other of his classmates while injuring many others. There were multiple experts that were called in to testify in court. It was found that scans of Kinkel’s brain as well as interviews with him pointed to him being schizophrenic. One doctor who took scans found that Kinkel had some open spaces in part of his brain. These spaces were indicative of “reduced blood flow to the frontal lobe, the area associated with emotional control and decision making” (Frontline). He then said that this fell in line with people with schizophrenia (Frontline).  Unfortunately for Kinkel the judge did threw out the defense of being mentally-ill and handed down quite a hefty sentence of 220 years. However, the idea is that instead of just going off of word of mouth or how someone may appear, they let actual brain scans and internal imaging play apart in the defense. This can be beneficial in court cases because it can provide more evidence for the judge and the jury to go over in order to make a decision. Without the use of the internal images, one can try to fake their way through a court case and plead mentally ill.
            Internal imaging can change how one might a view a person. Someone who seems fine could be suffering from severe internal damage that cannot be noticed through external symptoms. The use of imaging can also help doctors make accurate diagnosis of patients. There will no longer be a sole dependence on the DSM. It can also be beneficial in a courthouse setting as it can serve as evidence to make sure the proper sentence is handed down. The fact of the matter is being able to see the effect of mental illness on the body will help understand it more.

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