Functional neuroimaging in psychiatry and the case for failing better

Neuron. 2022 Aug 17;110(16):2524-2544. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2022.07.005.


Psychiatric disorders encompass complex aberrations of cognition and affect and are among the most debilitating and poorly understood of any medical condition. Current treatments rely primarily on interventions that target brain function (drugs) or learning processes (psychotherapy). A mechanistic understanding of how these interventions mediate their therapeutic effects remains elusive. From the early 1990s, non-invasive functional neuroimaging, coupled with parallel developments in the cognitive neurosciences, seemed to signal a new era of neurobiologically grounded diagnosis and treatment in psychiatry. Yet, despite three decades of intense neuroimaging research, we still lack a neurobiological account for any psychiatric condition. Likewise, functional neuroimaging plays no role in clinical decision making. Here, we offer a critical commentary on this impasse and suggest how the field might fare better and deliver impactful neurobiological insights.

Keywords: EEG; MEG; cognitive neuroscience; computational psychiatry; electroencephalography; fMRI; functional magnetic resonance imaging; magnetoencephalography; precision psychiatry.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Electroencephalography* / methods
  • Functional Neuroimaging
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Neuroimaging / methods
  • Psychiatry*