“What is the next big breakthrough you are waiting for in mental health?”
Despite the wide spread of neuropsychiatric (mental) disorders and the progress in the basic neuroscience, there is only little advance in understanding the pathophysiology of such disorders and correspondent to it delay in the development of effective therapies. We believe that this is due to a lack of a consistent paradigm of psycho- and neuro-pathology that would incorporate the novel knowledge from basic neuroscience. At the same time, such a novel paradigm that stresses the dynamic balance between isolated functions of local neuronal assemblies and globally coordinated activity between them is beginning to emerge. After years of research, modern neuroscience conceptualises the human brain as a complex nested hierarchy of functionally specialised neuronal assemblies that interact with each other in a spatially and temporally coherent fashion, keeping so-called metastable balance. It has been suggested that the loss of such a metastable balance in favour of either independent or hyper-ordered processing leads to a pathological states that give rise to neuropsychiatric syndromes constituting a particular disorder. Such conceptualization is explicitly utilised in the theory of Operational Architectonics of brain and mind functioning.
From such novel perspective, the understanding of many mental disorders could gain a new insight. For example, even though the modern model of major depression stresses the key role of anterior asymmetry – the so-called cognitive anterior model of depression, from the point of view of metastable balance hypothesis outlined above, major depression could generally be viewed as a disorder of disturbed neuronal assemblies’ plasticity, leading to an inadequate relationship between multiple operations produced by many interacting neuronal assemblies. Application of Operational Architectonics methodology to EEG of medication-free patients with major depression reveals a widespread and significant increase in synchrony among operations of neuronal assemblies (formation of Operational Modules – OMs, as we call them) when compared to healthy subjects, with greater number of small OMs in the left hemisphere and large OMs in the right hemisphere. Such peculiarities of operational synchrony could be interpreted as signs of adaptive (over)compensation of the “depressed” brain in an attempt to achieve more adequate semantic context which is presented differently in left and right hemispheres through establishing a new overall metastable brain state. It has been suggested that in the process of such overcompensation, connections between neuronal representations of negative affect and different personal semantic concepts become strongly activated. This is why depressed individuals tend to see even positive information as negative because it becomes associated with personally relevant negative information. The observed type of a new metastable brain state with increased operational synchrony could be a possible mechanism underlying the maintenance of a depressive state.
Schizophrenia is another mental disorder which pathophysiological mechanisms could be better understood if it viewed as a disorder of metastable balance between large-scale integration (formation of OMs) and independent processing (local transient neuronal assemblies) in the cortex, favouring independent operations. Application of Operational Architectonics methodology to patients with schizophrenia reveals a significant decrease of operational synchrony among remote neuronal assemblies (indexed as OMs formation) in schizophrenic patients when compared to healthy subjects. Such low level of operational synchrony may signify a well-documented pattern of mental impairment in schizophrenics that expresses a lack of integration of different cognitive functions for effective problem solving, deficits in abstract concept formation, set maintenance, set shifting, behavioural control and problems in the regulation of affect and behaviour.
As we have discussed above, recent research emphasizes that the majority of psychiatric/mental problems are accompanied by disruption in the temporal and metastable structure of brain activity, where this temporal structure could be either more irregular (uncorrelated randomness) or more regular (excessive order) than normal. From this perspective, we believe, the future of neuropsychotherapy lies in its ability to design such therapeutic procedures that can restore the normal temporal structure and metastable structure of brain activity. This approach seems more physiologically adequate to integrative, nonstationary and self-organized nature of brain processes and fits in with a novel understanding of the dynamical nature of mental diseases, where so-called “time disbalance” become more evident especially in the early stages of the disease, than “structural disbalance”. In this context, further studies in how different neuropsychotherapeutic approaches can modify temporal/metastable structure of brain activity in patients are encouraged.
Summarising this post, we hope that the application of Operational Architectonics approach for EEG analysis of different mental disorders will contribute to a current effort in developing a more rational neuropsychotherapy that takes into consideration the novel views on brain/mental disorders.
A copy of the paper on Operational Architectonics in different mental disorders may be viewed here (link: http://www.bm-science.com/team/art60.pdf )
About Operational Architectonics theory of brain and mind functioning read here (link: http://www.bm-science.com/team/art61.pdf )
For more about the research of Andrew and Alexander Fingelkurts go here (link: http://www.bm-science.com/team/fingelkurts.html )