Biomarkers and neurobehavioral diagnosis

Joshua B. Ewen*, William Z. Potter, John A. Sweeney

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Our current diagnostic methods for treatment planning in Psychiatry and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities leave room for improvement, and null results in clinical trials in these fields may be a result of insufficient tools for patient stratification. Great hope has been placed in novel technologies to improve clinical and trial outcomes, but we have yet to see a substantial change in clinical practice. As we examine attempts at biomarker validation within these fields, we find that it may be the diagnoses themselves that fall short. We now need to improve neuropsychiatric nosologies with a focus on validity based not solely on behavioral features, but on a synthesis that includes genetic and biological data as well. The eventual goal is diagnostic biomarkers and diagnoses themselves based on distinct mechanisms, but such an understanding of the causal relationship across levels of analysis is likely to be elusive for some time. Rather, we propose an approach in the near-term that deconstructs diagnosis into a series of independent, empiric and clinically relevant associations among a single, defined patient group, a single biomarker, a single intervention and a single clinical outcome. Incremental study across patient groups, interventions, outcomes and modalities will lead to a more interdigitated network of knowledge, and correlations in metrics across levels of analysis will eventually give way to the causal understanding that will allow for mechanistically based diagnoses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100029
JournalBiomarkers in Neuropsychiatry
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Biomarker
  • Diagnosis
  • Neurodevelopmental disabilities
  • Nosology
  • Ontology
  • Prognosis
  • Prognostication
  • Psychiatry
  • Taxonomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biochemistry, medical


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