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An ECG for Depression?

Everyone is aware of the tremendous value an electrocardiogram conveys by giving a snapshot of cardiac activity. What if a similar tool could be used to assess brain function and allow quick detection of mental and neurological illness?

According to a Monash University biomedical engineer, a device to detect and compare the brain’s normal electrical activity against the distinct electrical patterns found in depression, schizophrenia and other central nervous system (CNS) disorders is right around the corner.

Brian Lithgow has developed electrovestibulography which is something akin to an ‘ECG for the mind.’ Patterns of electrical activity in the brain’s vestibular (or balance) system are measured against distinct response patterns found in mental disorders.

Working with psychiatry researchers at Monash University’s Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre (MAPrc) in Melbourne, Australia, he tested volunteers and found distinct response patterns, or “biomarkers,” that distinguished different CNS diseases from each other and from regular electrovestibular activity.

Monash has teamed up with corporate partner Neural Diagnostics to develop and patent electrovestibulography, or EVestG™. It is hoped the simple, quick and inexpensive screening process for CNS diseases will eventually become standard practice in hospitals around the world.

“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.”

Neural Diagnostics CEO Dr. Roger Edwards said the implications of the new technique were huge.

“This could be one of the most significant inventions ever to come out of Monash. CNS disorders cost upwards of $2 trillion (U.S. dollars) globally and affect one in four people sometime in their lifetime. At present, diagnosing these conditions is done almost exclusively by qualitative measures, through questions and interviews, and it can take many years for sufferers to be correctly diagnosed,” Dr. Edwards said.

The technique is already attracting international interest and, if further testing goes to plan, it could be adopted in Australian and overseas hospitals within a few years.

“We are doing the necessary research and development and getting independent expert reports done, but results so far are cause for great optimism,” Dr. Edwards said.

MAPrc Director Professor Jayashri Kulkarni said, “Engineering and psychiatry are two disciplines that do not usually work together, but here at MAPrc, through our collaboration, we are at the forefront of translating biotechnology into clinical tools for psychiatric practice. While there is more work to be done, electrovestibulography could provide a major breakthrough in the diagnosis of mental illnesses.”

Source: Monash University

An ECG for Depression?

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). An ECG for Depression?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 12, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2009/10/16/an-ecg-for-depression/9011.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.