A more comprehensive view of brain function
Traditionally, today’s psychologists, psychiatrists and paediatricians look at ‘behaviour’ when diagnosing childhood disorders. At Neuroflow, we strive to go beyond this and place a strong emphasis on examining cognition, using cognitive assessments.
Neuroscience research has grown immensely based on neuroimaging techniques such as fMRI and EEG. Neuroscientists look for correlations between neuroimaging results – for example more blood flow in a particular area of the brain – and correlate it with associated problems such as reading, listening or visual perception.
A diagnosis is not the whole story
The whole idea of the ‘diagnosis’ is based on the medical model, which ‘categorises’ problems. This works fine for medical problems, usually based on a ‘virus’ or problem in a specific anatomical area. But in psychology, causes for problems are usually multiple, and include genetic factors and experiences. For example, recurring ear infections when young may cause auditory processing issues.
A movement in psychology is towards the ‘dimensional’ approach rather than the ‘categorical’. Take ADHD for example. This disorder is mainly diagnosed by scoring a rating scale of a child’s symptoms as observed by a parent and a teacher. If the cut-off point is reached and criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-V) are met, then the child is diagnosed.
Criteria from the DSM-V may involve something like, ‘symptoms present for at least 6 months’, ‘symptoms present in two situations like home and school’, ‘symptom count must be at least 6 in one scorer and high in the other’. In other words, diagnosis is based on observation of behavioural symptoms by primary carers.
This method however doesn’t tell us exactly what the kid struggles with – could it be working memory or is it arousal regulation (needs a lot of stimulation to stay alert)? Evaluating a child based on one method alone may be misleading. Some children diagnosed with ADHD have been later found to have dyslexia.
Focusing on the individual
Psychology is heading towards a more personalised approach. We believe thisis the future of psychology and we are intent on gaining a deeper understanding of an individual’s cognitive difficulties and strengths. While addressing behaviours and changing them is a good strategy, we are also interested in exploring other ways of directly addressing cognitive problems using neuromodulation techniques.