The current issue of Wired Magazine carries an article I wrote about entrepreneurs who market different forms of functional neuroimaging for indications ranging from diagnosing psychiatric disorders to detecting lies. As part of my research for the article, I got SPECT scanned by Daniel Amen at the Amen Clinic in Newport Beach, and received a functional MRI by Cephos Corporation in Massachusetts. The bottom line is that functional neuroimaging is not ready for prime time in clinical settings, with very few exceptions, such as the use of PET scanning to differentiate frontotemporal dementia from Alzheimer's disease. In addition, Cephos and No Lie MRI's lie detection algorithms are intriguing, and may rival standard polygraphy if current research pans out.
I hope you'll read the article and let me know your thoughts. Thus far, most of the comments on the Wired website have been by either Dr. Amen or his supporters, who rely on patient anecdotes, rather than prospective clinical trials, to support the validity of SPECT in psychiatry. Clearly, there's a lot of money to be made in this business, and the allure of riches has clouded the judgments of otherwise well-meaning and intelligent clinicians.
Tellingly, one of the Amen Clinic's main competitors, Brain Matters, based in Denver, recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. This financial death spiral came shortly after the company was featured on the PBS Frontline show, The Medicated Child.
Functional neuroimaging has great promise for elucidating the neurocircuitry of psychiatric disorders, but most of the neuro-entrepreneurs are leapfrogging over the necessary studies to rush their products to market. It's time to slow down and do it right.