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MRI Insights Into Adolescent Neurocircuitry—A Vision for the Future


Adolescence is the time of onset of many psychiatric disorders. Half of pediatric patients present with comorbid psychiatric disorders that complicate both their medical and psychiatric care. Currently, diagnosis and treatment decisions are based on symptoms. The field urgently needs brain-based diagnosis and personalized care. Neuroimaging can shed light on how aberrations in brain circuits might underlie psychiatric disorders and their development in adolescents. In this perspective article, we summarize recent MRI literature that provides insights into development of psychiatric disorders in adolescents. We specifically focus on studies of brain structural and functional connectivity. Ninety-six included studies demonstrate the potential of MRI to assess psychiatrically relevant constructs, diagnose psychiatric disorders, predict their development or predict response to treatment. Limitations of the included studies are discussed, and recommendations for future research are offered. We also present a vision for the role that neuroimaging may play in pediatrics and primary care in the future: a routine neuropsychological and neuropsychiatric imaging (NPPI) protocol for adolescent patients, which would include a 30-min brain scan, a quality control and safety read of the scan, followed by computer-based calculation of the structural and functional brain network metrics that can be compared to the normative data by the pediatrician. We also perform a cost-benefit analysis to support this vision and provide a roadmap of the steps required for this vision to be implemented.

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