Researchers at the Department of Health Informatics at Rutgers University have just published a study in NeuroImage: Clinical detailing the results of their efforts to scan the brains of patients suffering from opioid use disorder and comparing those scans with those from healthy volunteers.
The MRI scans looked at brain structure and function. Using an algorithm, the team was able to clearly distinguish between the brains of each group.
The implications of this research?
According to Suchismita Ray, the lead researcher on the project, this new test holds the promise of making diagnoses more reliable. As he said, "people can say one thing, but brain patterns don't lie."
Why this research is important…
If this new diagnostic tool proves to be reliable, it will help clinicians determine whether the brain network controlling opioid cravings has changed under treatment.
Currently, self-reported data is used to assess most opioid addicts, and that data can easily be manipulated.
With this new scanning tool, physicians may gain the ability to detect whether brain function and structure in a patient undergoing treatment for their addiction has returned to normal or near-to-normal levels following that treatment.
If the scan determines it has not, more treatment can be advised and provided.
Given the size and scope of the opioid abuse epidemic, improving diagnostic accuracy is a key piece in efforts to improve outcomes and save lives.
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