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Press Releases

In JAMA Psychiatry Article, Child Mind Institute Researchers Offer New Insights into How to Make Functional MRI Findings More Useful to Researchers and Clinicians

January 13, 2021

Technology is an Essential Tool for Improving Our Understanding of Mental Health and Learning Disorders and How to Better Treat Them

New York, NY – Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) has emerged as one of the most promising tools for developing objective, brain-based laboratory tests and growth charts that can be used to guide clinical decision-making and interventions for mental health and learning disorders. Despite myriad advances over the past two decades of fMRI research, the field is yet to address lingering concerns about measurement reliability – a fundamental prerequisite for any clinically useful test in medicine.

In a new essay titled “Removing the Reliability Bottleneck in Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Research to Achieve Clinical Utility” which appears in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, Dr. Michael Milham, Vice President of Research and Director of the Center for the Developing Brain at the Child Mind Institute and Dr. Ting Xu, a research scientist at the Center, together with a colleague from the Kavli Neuroscience Discovery Institute at Johns Hopkins University, scope out four critical challenges related to measurement reliability that must be overcome before visions of broad clinical utility can ever be fulfilled. Specifically, they highlight: 1) confusions regarding the forms of reliability required to achieve clinical utility; 2) questions regarding how to best assess reliability; 3) limitations in the datasets available for quantifying and optimizing reliability for functional neuroimaging; and 4) shortcomings in the behavioral assessments of mental health symptoms and difficulties that are used in biological psychiatry. Recommendations are offered for how to move beyond each of these challenges.

As the authors note, “research using fMRI has made great strides…However, we must pay attention to basic scientific methods and details to assure the data and methods used are robust.”

About the Child Mind Institute

The Child Mind Institute is an independent, national nonprofit dedicated to transforming the lives of children and families struggling with mental health and learning disorders. Our teams work every day to deliver the highest standards of care, advance the science of the developing brain, and empower parents, professionals and policymakers to support children when and where they need it most. Together with our supporters, we’re helping children reach their full potential in school and in life. We share all of our resources freely and do not accept any funding from the pharmaceutical industry. Learn more at