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Software developed for early detection of mental disorders

The Neuroimaging and Neurospectroscopy laboratory of National Centre for Brain Research has developed complete and integrated software that could help early diagnosis of mental health problems.

Developed by a team of neuroscientists, the software can quantify a brain neurochemical called γ-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) through neuroimaging of brain metabolites using Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS).

Titled KALPANA, the software allows visualization and single-click processing of MRS data acquired using a variety of methods. With the incorporation of premade end-to-end processing workflows for a variety of data and use of algorithms that enable accurate estimation of chemical concentrations from the signal and a graphical interphase for its easy interpretation, the software offers distinct clinical scope.

While several signal processing packages do already exist, KALAPNA offers a distinct advantage in three aspects. It can handle a variety of signal types and processing algorithms, it offers versatility for both in-depth interactive use for research purposes and one-click processing for diagnostic purposes and utilises an adapted algorithm to improve the accuracy of quantification thereby increasing clinical value of the package. The package has been made free for academic use.

The team led by Dr. Pravat Mandal is now assessing the changes in GABA in dementia and has found that dementia-associated reduction in GABA levels can be accurately estimated. They hope to expand the research to other neuropsychiatric disorders in the coming future.

GABA has been well known to be central to the pathology of several neuropsychiatric disorders like depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Earlier, DBT had supported mapping of GABA for Alzheimer’s diseases which laid the base for this new technology.

Quantification of this chemical can help early diagnosis of these conditions and for understanding the patho-physiology of these disorders by evaluating treatment responses.

Given the immense clinical scope of GABA as a potential quantifiable indicator of increased risk for mental health disorders as well as of both disease progression and effectiveness of therapeutics, the scientists decided to develop an easy method of quantifying it and creating a graphical user interface that allows the processing of any MRS signal rapidly and accurately.

MRS can provide a range of indicators like concentrations of brain chemicals, to pH and temperature to the biochemist or radiologist non-invasively, from any well-defined region in the ever elusive brain.

Mental health disorders pose a major health issue all over the world. Besides being a risk factor of medical illnesses, mental health disorders are acutely disabling, causing ill effects on physical health, leading to poor quality of life, dramatically affecting both work performance and personal relationships, and often increasing mortality due to co-morbidities by several fold. These crippling disorders like major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder are alarmingly common. Yet, mental health has not achieved parity with physical health; this needs to change. It is important to develop diagnostic kits for mental health disorders like depression much like diagnostics for physical diseases like cancer and diabetes.

Demonstration of GABA Quantitation using KALPANA