NIMH director talks about “Brain Disorders” instead of Mental Health Disorders

April 22, 2013

By Dr. Allen Novian


In this TED Talk by Thomas Insel, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), he discusses the need to redefine “mental health disorders” and “behavioral disorders” by acknowledging their source: they are brain disorders.


It is a wonderful thing to see the greater mental health field embracing the idea that behavioral disorders show up first in the brain, and then in the behavior.  In the talk, he discusses early detection and intervention.  While we are not, as a field, entirely ready to treat the brain before behavior manifests, it seems that what we do with neurofeedback is certainly in line with this intention.  This especially applies to the Quantitative EEG.  We can see what the brain is doing electrically and compare it to a normed database, so that we can discover areas of over activation, under activation, and asymmetry.  Not only can we see the differences, we can use neurofeedback to change them if it is clinically appropriate.


As “brain disorders” continue to impact our lives, it is my hope that the medical and mental health communities will embrace a neuroscience approach to assessment and treatment.  I do not discredit or downplay the usefulness of individual, couples, marriage, or group counseling, or any of the methods and modalities that mental health professionals use in therapy.  They are very necessary and effective, and we use them in our office as well as neurofeedback. However, I think the neurological approach is often forgotten, when it very well may be important to address too.

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