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December 2013

Making Progress With Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy

Author Affiliations
  • 1Harvard Medical School, McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts
JAMA Psychiatry. 2013;70(12):1265-1266. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.2615

Leading neuroimaging researchers have joked that magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) is a technique of the future and always will be. This skepticism is often well placed because the validation and replication of interesting MRS findings are less frequent than those using other brain imaging modalities. There are multiple reasons for this circumstance: the intrinsic MRS signal to noise ratio is low compared with structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging; specialized magnetic resonance imaging hardware and sequences are required for many MRS experiments, making widespread adoption and standardization difficult; and because MRS yields data on multiple metabolites, it is possible to report secondary findings even if the a priori hypothesis is not confirmed. On the other hand, MRS offers a unique window on brain function, one that is relevant for cellular processes implicated in the pathophysiology of psychiatric disorders. Therefore, the field of psychiatric neuroimaging has paid an unfortunate price for failure to make progress in this domain.