Brain Scans for Psychological Assessments

The field of psychology has been buzzing for a while about alternative ways to conduct evaluations that can yield more objective, less biased, and more accurate results for our clients. I wrote recently about these challenges when conducting evaluations.

Various studies have popped up attempting to determine the genetic predisposition to certain neurodivergences, particularly autism, but the community has expressed concern that these tests may be focused on eliminating neurodivergence rather than offering appropriate support. There is a word for this goal – eugenics – and I hope I do not have to explain to my readers why it is bad.

While I am not saying that every genetic study on neurodivergence has this end goal, there is always the possibility that this information could be misused.

At the same time, existing systems are biased and lead to misdiagnosis, both preventing clients from getting the support they need and causing clients to be pushed into treatments that are not right for them. Unlike infectious disease, for instance, I cannot take a swab that will definitively indicate the client’s neurotype. But maybe there is something else we can observe directly!

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Photo by MART PRODUCTION on (Stock photo, not from the article)

Recently, I saw an article with Temple Grandin, who my publisher refers to as “the most famous autistic person,” though I am not sure how we measure that. Anyway, apparently an MRI of Temple Grandin’s brain showed observable differences from the MRI of someone who is not autistic.

Sure, a sample size of one is hardly definitive. But imagine this as a starting point for the future! We could point to an image of our brain and show, “See? I knew the way I experienced the world around me was different!” regardless of whether we sat through an assessment or made eye contact.

I am excited to see where this goes in the future.

Published by Dr Marschall

Dr. Amy Marschall received her Psy.D. from the University of Hartford in September 2015. She completed her internship at the National Psychology Training Consortium with specializations in assessment and rural mental health. Currently, she specializes in trauma-informed and neurodiversity-affirming care, and she is certified in telemental health. Dr. Marschall runs a private practice, RMH Therapy, where she provides individual and family therapy as well as psychological assessments across the lifespan. Dr. Amy Marschall is an author and professional speaker.

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