What the future of youth mental health care might look like, as brain study reaches milestone

University of the Sunshine Coast

Brain scans of Longitudinal Adolescent Brain Study participants

Professor Daniel Hermens, who leads the Longitudinal Adolescent Brain Study (LABS) at UniSC’s Thompson Institute, has published research suggesting the future of preventative mental health could lie in giving 12-year-olds brain scans.

Professor Hermens and other neuroscientists from UniSC’s Thompson Institute recently established that mapping the ‘uniqueness’ of an adolescent’s brain development using brain-fingerprinting, might indicate whether they’ll experience mental health problems in the future.

As predictive modelling continues to advance in conjunction with AI, he believes this could one day be as commonplace as bowel cancer screening for 50-year-olds.

“With brain fingerprinting, we’ve established MRIs already have the capability of screening for mental health risk factors. This is only going to improve in the future, as the way we detect and track mental illness advances with wearable technology and developments in AI,” said Professor Hermens.

“Once brain scans can reliably predict mental health problems at early stages, I think there’s a case to be made for subsidising and increasing access to brain scans, given the huge burden and financial cost to Australia.”

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