Finding the elusive psychiatric "lesion" with 21st-century neuroanatomy: A note of caution

Daniel R. Weinberger, Eugenia Radulescu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The widespread use of MRI has led to a wealth of structural and functional anatomicalfindings inpatientswithdiverse psychiatric disorders that may represent insights into pathobiology. However, recent technical reports indicate that data from popular MRI research-particularly structural MRI, resting-state functional MRI, and diffusion tensor imaging-are highly sensitive to common artifacts (e.g., head motion and breathing effects) that may dominate the results. Because these and other important confounders of MRI data (e.g., smoking, bodyweight, metabolic variations, medical comorbidities, psychoactive drugs, alcohol use, mentalstate)tend to varysy stematically between patient and control groups, the evidence that findings are neurobiologically meaningful is inconclusive and may represent artifacts or epiphenomena of uncertain value. The authors caution that uncritically accepting from study to study findings that may represent fallacies of all sorts carries the risk of misinforming practitioners and patients about biological abnormalities underlying psychiatric illness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-33
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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