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Medical College of Wisconsin and GE Healthcare to Collaborate on Research into Brain Disorders

GE Healthcare and The Medical College of Wisconsin announced today they will collaborate on ultra-high field Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to study early neurological and psychiatric disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and bipolar disorder, and to develop new brain imaging techniques for detecting disease before clinical symptoms are evident.

The brain is the most complex organ in the human body, in terms of both its structure and chemical composition. Created by our genes, life's experiences and the environment around us, the brain acquires, coordinates and disseminates information to control how we think, behave, learn and feel. To do this, all of the one hundred billion cells in this complex organ must effectively communicate with each other, and failure to do so may cause or contribute to brain dysfunction and mental illness.

Mental disorders are common in the United States and internationally. An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. When applied to the 2004 U.S. Census residential population estimate for ages 18 and older, this figure translates to 57.7 million people. Even though mental disorders are widespread in the population, the main burden of illness is concentrated in a much smaller proportion — about 6 percent, or 1 in 17 — who suffer from a serious mental illness. In addition, mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and Canada. Many people suffer from more than one mental disorder at a given time. Nearly half (45 percent) of those with any mental disorder meet criteria for 2 or more disorders, with severity strongly related to comorbidity.

In the U.S., mental disorders are diagnosed based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV).