Reliability of psychiatric diagnosis in postmortem research

Amy Deep-Soboslay, Mayada Akil, Catherine E. Martin, Llewelyn B. Bigelow, Mary M. Herman, Thomas M. Hyde, Joel E. Kleinman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Postmortem human brain research is an important approach for identifying the cellular, molecular, and genetic pathways involved in the pathophysiology of psychiatric disorders. One critical component in postmortem research is the reliability of psychiatric diagnoses used to define study cohorts. Finding reliable methods for assessing lifetime psychiatric diagnoses in subjects after death is extremely challenging. Two commonly used approaches were compared: psychiatric record reviews and postmortem family interviews. We hypothesized that these two methods would lead to more diagnostic agreement for subjects with schizophrenia than those with mood disorders. For 37 cases, psychiatric records were reviewed retrospectively using the Diagnostic Evaluation After Death, and family members were interviewed using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV. Comparison of diagnoses derived from these two approaches generated an overall kappa coefficient of. 67. Kappa coefficients for the schizophrenia cohort were. 94,. 68 for the major depressive disorder cohort, and. 58 for the bipolar disorder cohort. Thus, although it may be sufficient to establish the postmortem diagnosis of schizophrenia using one of the two methods, the best method for reaching an accurate postmortem diagnosis for mood disorders is more difficult to determine and requires further study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)96-101
Number of pages6
JournalBiological psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Mood disorders
  • postmortem diagnosis
  • psychological autopsy
  • record review
  • schizophrenia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry

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