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How 'precision medicine' will add objectivity to psychiatric care

Alexander Niculescu, MD, PhDSimilar to how biomarkers are guiding treatment of some cancers and heart conditions, the presence of certain substances or genes in an individual will be able to guide that person's psychiatric care. Called "precision psychiatry," this emerging field shows promise as a way to add objectivity and to track treatment effectiveness, explains Alexander Niculescu, MD, PhD. He is a professor of psychiatry and medical neuroscience at Indiana University School of Medicine who gave a lecture recently at Upstate. Clinical trials are underway, and after the Food and Drug Administration approves the screening techniques, patients with certain psychiatric disorders are likely to see an improved quality of life and a removal of stigma, he says. Tests will be able to validate problems and demonstrate that these problems are not just in someone's head. Niculescu says precision psychiatry is likely to save money, since it will be able to point psychiatrists to the most effective treatments, which may include medication, counseling and/or lifestyle changes.