By Prof John Suckling
Abstract: Along with many other scientific fields, psychiatry – and neuroscience more generally – has been transformed by the digital revolution. Neuroimaging (the coupling of image acquisition and image processing methodologies) has adopted a central role in the development of our understanding of the psychophysiological processes that are widely accepted as forming the biological substrate for clinical phenotypes. But even in the short-time since imaging became available as a research tool, there have been significant changes in thinking with regards to the sort of information that can be extracted from the large quantities of spatial and temporal data produced by a typical scanner. Nevertheless, there has been variable success in characterizing with neuroimaging the major mental illnesses described in the current nosology.
To illustrate neuroimaging techniques and what the might tell us, schizophrenia and autism are compared and contrasted as two disorders with a common historical origin that diverge significantly in terms of the size and patterns of their associated neurobiology. Both are currently thought of as developmental disorders, but can the wide differences between them be reconciled?