Identifying biological markers for improved precision medicine in psychiatry

Mol Psychiatry. 2020 Feb;25(2):243-253. doi: 10.1038/s41380-019-0555-5. Epub 2019 Nov 1.


Mental disorders represent an increasing personal and financial burden and yet treatment development has stagnated in recent decades. Current disease classifications do not reflect psychobiological mechanisms of psychopathology, nor the complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors, likely contributing to this stagnation. Ten years ago, the longitudinal IMAGEN study was designed to comprehensively incorporate neuroimaging, genetics, and environmental factors to investigate the neural basis of reinforcement-related behavior in normal adolescent development and psychopathology. In this article, we describe how insights into the psychobiological mechanisms of clinically relevant symptoms obtained by innovative integrative methodologies applied in IMAGEN have informed our current and future research aims. These aims include the identification of symptom groups that are based on shared psychobiological mechanisms and the development of markers that predict disease course and treatment response in clinical groups. These improvements in precision medicine will be achieved, in part, by employing novel methodological tools that refine the biological systems we target. We will also implement our approach in low- and medium-income countries to understand how distinct environmental, socioeconomic, and cultural conditions influence the development of psychopathology. Together, IMAGEN and related initiatives strive to reduce the burden of mental disorders by developing precision medicine approaches globally.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Biomarkers
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Mental Disorders / genetics*
  • Mental Disorders / physiopathology
  • Neuroimaging / methods
  • Precision Medicine / methods*
  • Psychiatry / methods*
  • Psychiatry / trends
  • Psychopathology / methods


  • Biomarkers