Attention deficit machine:
Well there is good news of a sort.  It has occurred in the context of rising incidence of things like attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, which has been compounded by the fact that the book on diagnosing mental disorders is being massively updated.  I understand that the diagnosis of “autism spectrum disorder is to be dropped.”  Of course the name does not cause or prevent the condition.  But it certainly impacts what funds are available to care for what conditions, and that in turn impacts how eager professionals are to make this or that diagnosis.

So mental conditions in children are going to have a change in the rate at which they are diagnosed that will have nothing to do with the actual incidence of any conditions.  So that makes teasing out factors that might correlate with the incidence and thus invite further study all the more difficult.  And then on top of that, even the new book does not have any objective criteria for any disorders.  That’s amazing.  There has been an enormous amount of interest in how the brain works, but nothing has made the leap from the lab to the bedside.  Contrast that with things like heart attacks, intracranial bleed and infarctions, cancer, infections and so forth. 

Well now they think (FDA Approves First Medical Device for ADHD Diagnosis SCIENCE vol. 341 no. 6144 July 26, 2013 page 324) they have a device that can look at brain waves and come out with numbers that aid in the diagnosis.  Of course for a diagnosis like low oxygen it is the test that makes the diagnosis.  But still, even if the numbers prove inadequate and often flawed, there may still be an objective test that is more likely positive when the diagnosis is there.  My own interest, of course, follows the logic, “Well if outbreeding excessively can produce infertility, what else can it do?”  The brain is very complex.  No doubt it is finely tuned, on part to another.  And if you have one gene or gene control mechanism saying build one brain and another saying build a different brain, then given good numbers that correlate with brain problems it might just barely be possible to correlate them with ancestors and their kinship, assuming the relationship exists.  Personally if the diagnosis is subjective I wouldn’t really believe the numbers what ever they might show.  But given objective numbers, readouts on a machine, something might just come of it.

Provided somebody looks, of course.

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