Clinical application of brain imaging for the diagnosis of mood disorders: the current state of play

Mol Psychiatry. 2013 May;18(5):528-39. doi: 10.1038/mp.2013.25. Epub 2013 Apr 2.


In response to queries about whether brain imaging technology has reached the point where it is useful for making a clinical diagnosis and for helping to guide treatment selection, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has recently written a position paper on the Clinical Application of Brain Imaging in Psychiatry. The following perspective piece is based on our contribution to this APA position paper, which specifically emphasized the application of neuroimaging in mood disorders. We present an introductory overview of the challenges faced by researchers in developing valid and reliable biomarkers for psychiatric disorders, followed by a synopsis of the extant neuroimaging findings in mood disorders, and an evidence-based review of the current research on brain imaging biomarkers in adult mood disorders. Although there are a number of promising results, by the standards proposed below, we argue that there are currently no brain imaging biomarkers that are clinically useful for establishing diagnosis or predicting treatment outcome in mood disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Mood Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Neuroimaging* / methods
  • Neuroimaging* / standards
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration


  • Biomarkers