Science Fiction: Imaginary Neuro-Tech- The MIIM(Mental Illness Imaging Machine)

The Mental Illness Imaging Machine(MIIM) is an imaging device that can diagnose mental disorders.  The machine itself would look very similar to a MRI or CT Scan Machine.  For physical illnesses, there are currently tests(i.e. blood tests or current imaging devices) that can definitely prove whether or not a patient has a certain disease.  This is a great ability to have, and it cuts out “guess and check” diagnosis’ and allows treatment to begin sooner.  Currently, no such technology exists for diagnosing mental disorders.  Psychiatrists have to make educated guess based on behavioral manifestations, and there is no way to be sure of a diagnosis.  Many mental disorders have similar symptoms, so sometimes people are misdiagnosed and so not receive adequate treatment.  Often times, psychiatrists have to prescribe medications on speculation of what will work best, and it takes many tries to find an appropriate medication.  The MIIM will allow accurate diagnoses and more accurate treatment.  The MIIM can be used by psychiatrists whenever evaluating a patient.  Also, many people live large segments of their lives with undiagnosed mental disorders, which yields sometimes devastating results(i.e. poor relationships with others, troubling thoughts, and even suicide.)  The MIIM can also be used not only when psychiatric help is sought, but also as a precautionary tool.  It could be used early in life to screen children and teenagers, and also used later in life to test “high-risk” people(i.e. people with a family history of mental illness.)

Right now, very little is know about the neurobiological causes and mechanisms of mental illnesses.  This knowledge would be necessary to invent this device.  Because of this, I am not exactly sure what must be measured, but I will speculate that eventually,a certain, specific gene, protein, or neuron will be known to cause every different mental disorder.  This “target” gene, protein, or neuron will be only be found in individuals with a certain mental illness.  Once these targets are found to be exclusively common to a mental disorder, the MIIM can be made.

Tracers will be created that bind to the abnormal target.  For example, let’s say it is discovered that mental disorder A is cause by the presence of neurons releasing an abnormal strand of neurotransmitter X, and this abnormal strand is exclusive to mental disorder A, and it is common to all patients.  A protein tracer will develop that seeks out these neurons  by recognizing abnormal strand X’s unique, mutated genetic sequence.  It is key to the MIIM that that these so called microscopic tracers can be developed and accurately target the discovered abnormality.  These tracer proteins, for many different mental disorders, will be dissolved in a liquid, and the patient will drink the liquid before entering the MIIM terminal.  After Y amount of minutes, the tracers will be in the brain, and located to the abnormal targets.  The tracers that have nothing to bind to will exit the brain.

Once the patient is in the MIIM, the machine will release signals that recognize the tracers still located in the brain.  It will “pick up” which tracer it is, where it is located, and how much is bound.  I am not entirely sure of the science behind these signals and pick ups.  It can either be small levels of radioactive substances, and the decay will be picked up and formed into the image, but this is probably very dangerous.  The optimal solution will be that upon binding, the tracers emit a signal or wave if you will(due to a chemical reaction-i.e. when the tracers binds and is in presence of abnormal neurotransmitter strand X, a reaction occurs that emits a wave.  Again I’m not entirely sure of the science, which I think does not currently exist, so it would need to be developed.)  The machine would then measure the emitted waves and form the image.  The image would show the colored brain, indicating tracers, and a computer would produce a summary.  The summary would include each mental disorder tested and a bar.  If the bar is blank, that indicates the test is negative for that illness.  If the test is positive, the bar would be filled with a color corresponding to the brain image.  There would be mild, moderate, and severe categories based on how large the presence of the target is.  The image below shows the basic process in pictures, an example report and image taken, and also a timeline(will be discussed below).  This imaging diagnostic tool enables more accurate diagnoses and treatment.

MIIM

Timeline:

2014(#1): conception of the idea for the MIIM

2032(#2): discovery of a gene, protein, or neuron that causes a mental illness(and can be used as a target)

2041(#3):discovery of a different gene, protein, or neuron that causes a mental illness(and can be used as a target)

2046(#4): discovery of a different gene, protein, or neuron that causes a mental illness(and can be used as a target)

2049(#5): discovery of a different gene, protein, or neuron that causes a mental illness(and can be used as a target)

2058(#6): discovery of a different gene, protein, or neuron that causes a mental illness(and can be used as a target)

2063(#7): discovery of a different gene, protein, or neuron that causes a mental illness(and can be used as a target)

2077(#8): discovery of a different gene, protein, or neuron that causes a mental illness(and can be used as a target)

2082(#9): tracers are developed

2084(#10): machine is developed

2086(#11):  animal trials

2087(#12): human trials begin

2091(#13): practical implementation begins

I believe that the MIIM would be  a great tool to use and develop in the field of neuro-technology, and I hope that one day a similar device exists.

4 responses to “Science Fiction: Imaginary Neuro-Tech- The MIIM(Mental Illness Imaging Machine)”

  1. Joonho Jo says:

    This is a really interesting idea! What made you think of this? Neat picture also.

  2. Ava Lakmazaheri says:

    Great job at streamlining such a complex concept! I can also see huge benefits in how this machine would help in overcoming the stigma of mental illnesses.

  3. Carlos Aizenman says:

    I think we will be able to do something like this much sooner than 2091. PET scans actually image radioactive tracers and are used regularly in medicine, and several abnormal gene targets have been id’s for various disorders. So it’s a matter of making various probes and serially imaging each one, and using your combinatorial method to “pre-diagnose” mental illness.

  4. Heather M. Forbes says:

    Is this in your future plans? Do you aspire to develop this? It’s great work!

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