Journal of Bioethical Inquiry

, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 15-25

First online:

This is Why you’ve Been Suffering”: Reflections of Providers on Neuroimaging in Mental Health Care

  • Emily BorgeltAffiliated withNational Core for Neuroethics, University of British Columbia
  • , Daniel Z. BuchmanAffiliated withNational Core for Neuroethics, University of British Columbia
  • , Judy IllesAffiliated withNational Core for Neuroethics, University of British ColumbiaCanada Research Chair in Neuroethics, Division of Neurology, University of British Columbia Email author 

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Mental health care providers increasingly confront challenges posed by the introduction of new neurotechnology into the clinic, but little is known about the impact of such capabilities on practice patterns and relationships with patients. To address this important gap, we sought providers’ perspectives on the potential clinical translation of functional neuroimaging for prediction and diagnosis of mental illness. We conducted 32 semi-structured telephone interviews with mental health care providers representing psychiatry, psychology, family medicine, and allied mental health. Our results suggest that mental health providers have begun to re-conceptualize mental illness with a neuroscience gaze. They report an epistemic commitment to the value of a brain scan to provide a meaningful explanation of mental illness for their clients. If functional neuroimaging continues along its projected trajectory to translation, providers will ultimately have to negotiate its role in mental health. Their perspectives, therefore, enrich bioethical discourse surrounding neurotechnology and inform the translational pathway.


Neuroethics Mental health Psychiatry Neuroimaging