Improving psychiatry theory and prediction using mathematical tools

Psychological studies have started incorporating tools from other disciplines – primary among them being mathematical models that help integrate insights emerging from studies of the brain and behavior.

Researchers have been using mathematical models to develop new theoretical perspectives that can enrich data analysis with a hope that they will help explain mechanisms behind complex psychiatric diseases and improve treatment for patients.

Multiple studies in psychiatry do not often reveal coherent findings because of the variety of approaches adopted. Researchers however are optimistic about advancements in mathematical theory-based approaches as they have the potential of providing a more unified explanation with the power to predict phenomena. Theoretical physics has benefited tremendously from this approach, but it wasn’t until now that developing this type of theoretical understanding in the psychiatry field was emphasized.

Researchers believe that theory-based computational psychiatry is long-overdue effort to finally bring to psychiatry the same rigorous mathematical tools that have so successfully shaped fields such as physics. While studies have to be carried out to prove the clinical utility of mathematical models in mental health, there is great excitement around computational psychiatry indicating there is potential.

Why? Scientists believe that computational techniques are ideally suited to understand and integrate how phenomena from the subcellular to the society lead to mental illness. Further, the techniques provide a way to deal with the increasing amounts of data and the complexity of psychiatric illnesses.

Some of studies have shown that the approach has already started bearing fruit in terms of improved understanding in psychiatry. One of them is a study that uses computational models to examine brain processes, such as learning, emotion, dopamine signaling and information processing, and how processes interact in deficits underlying psychiatric disease. Read more about this here.

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