Skip to main content

Brain scan study makes it in top science stories of 2015

12/17/2015
Discover Magazine just released their annual "100 top stories of 2015" with the best in science spanning from space exploration, medicine, technology, envionrment, and more from the past year. 
VCH is thrilled to see the history-making brain scan study co-authored by Dr. Robert Tarzwell, Lions Gate Hospital’s Clinical Research Director – Mental Health appearing as number 19 in the list out of 100. 
“We were pleased simply to be noticed by Discover, and to be considered one of the 20 most important science stories of the year - we came #19 of 100 - is really an almost indescribable thrill and certainly a career highlight,” says Dr. Tarzwell, a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UBC and a specialist in both psychiatry and nuclear medicine.

Largest brain scan study in history

Invited by U.S. researchers from UCLA and Amen Clinics International to co-author the largest brain scan study in history using 21,143 subjects, the study demonstrated how brain perfusion single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) images accurately distinguish PTSD from TBI when compared against healthy controls and also against cohorts with a high burden of psychiatric disease. 

Research for combat veterans

While post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients have overlapping symptons –  amnesia, insomnia, irritability, reduced frustration tolerance, and low mood and energy – treatments are very different. With the ability to distinguish between the two disorders, clinicians will now be able to tailor treatment to the individual for better health outcomes. The research is particularly useful for combat veterans, who frequently suffer from both PTSD and TBI.
“In situations where PTSD and TBI coexist, we want to avoid treatments for one condition which could slow down recovery of the other condition,” Robert explains. “For instance, it is very common to use sedatives in PTSD. These are very unhelpful in TBI because they only exacerbate the main problem: under activity in the central nervous system. However, we also know from survey data that possibly as many as two thirds of individuals with PTSD and TBI do receive sedative medication as part of their treatment.”

Study success

Robert credits much of his success in this research project to the special working relationship forged between the departments of psychiatry and nuclear medicine at Lions Gate Hospital, as well as the hospital’s foundation.
“The foundation provided the functional brain imaging equipment and the department of psychiatry has worked together with nuclear medicine in referring complex, treatment resistant cases to our functional neuroimaging program. This allowed me to acquire the skills and expertise to make a meaningful contribution to this study.”
Click here to watch a short video on the study.

Continuing discoveries

On the heels of the successful U.S. study, Dr.Tarzwell is now working on a new study using Lions Gate Hospital data. He’s collaborating with Dr. Cyrus Raji and Dr. Dan Silverman of UCLA to discover the differences between unipolar depression and bipolar depression, sponsored by the Canadian Bipolar Foundation. The study will be completed in 2016.
SOURCE: Brain scan study makes it in top science stories of 2015 ( )
Page printed:

Copyright © Vancouver Coastal Health. All Rights Reserved.