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Will neuroimaging ever be used to diagnose pediatric bipolar disorder?


There is a great need for discovery of biological markers that could be used diagnostically for pediatric onset disorders, particularly those with potentially confusing phenomenology such as pediatric-onset bipolar disorder (BD). Obtaining these markers would help overcome current subjective diagnostic techniques of relying on parent and child interview and symptomatic history. Brain imaging may be the most logical choice for a diagnostic tool, and certain neurobiological abnormalities have already been found in pediatric BD. However, much work remains to be done before neuroimaging can be used reliably to diagnose this disorder, and because of the nature of BD and the limitations of imaging technology and technique, neuroimaging will likely at most be only a diagnostic aide in the near future. In this paper we discuss the characteristics of pediatric BD that complicate the use of biological markers as diagnostic tools, how neuroimaging techniques have been used to study pediatric BD so far, and the limitations and potential of such techniques for future diagnostic use.This work was supported in part by NIH Grant MH64460-01 (to K.C.).

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Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Kiki Chang, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Stanford University School of Medicine, 401 Quarry Road, Stanford, CA 94305-5540; E-mail:
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