Stories about: psychiatry

The brain whisperer: Tracking EEG footprints of autism and mental illness

EEG signals may reflect underlying brain connectivity patterns in autism. This brain has less dense local clusters linked by long-range connections, which may represent a normal pattern. The brain at right has denser, more uniform local connectivity with fewer long-distance connections in some regions.

Bill Bosl is used to looking for patterns. A computer scientist trained in atmospheric physics, geophysics and mathematics, he’s invented a method for computing properties of porous materials from CT scans. At the Lawrence Livermore National Lab, he worked on remote sensing problems, reading complex wave patterns to discern the location of groundwater, oil deposits and fault lines.

Today, he’s trying to measure thought – to compute what’s going on in hard-to-understand disorders like autism, which is currently diagnosed purely on the basis of behavior.  “The mathematical methods are very similar,” he says. “You’re analyzing waves.”

The waves in this case are electroencephalograms (EEGs), those squiggly lines generated by electrical activity in the brain. In autism,

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Better anger management through video games

I’m playing Space Invaders on a laptop in front of a group of psychiatrists and social workers, and frankly feeling pretty nervous. My finger is attached to a pulse oximeter, which measures my heart rate. As I struggle with the arrow keys to hit the incoming targets, I notice I’m shooting blanks. I take a deep breath to try to calm down.  My heart rate drops, and once again I’m firing real missiles, scoring hits.

This same game, adapted from the old 1978 Space Invaders, is being tested in young psychiatry patients here

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