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Nature of Mental Disorders

Understanding the nature of variation, specifically, differences among individuals, is one of the most intriguing subject matter in mental health research. While everybody agrees that mental disorders are associated with certain differences in behavior and possibly in biology, the nature of these differences, whether they are differences in kind or differences of degree, is still a question that begs for a comprehensive answer. How we define behavioral variations that constitute a disorder is also strongly tied to what kind of entities disorders are, for example, whether they are a certain type of disease, deviations from typicality, or simply extreme examples of common traits.

We use variety of data sources including traditional behavioral assessments (e.g., questionnaires), computational behavioral analysis (e.g., computer vision based assessments), brain imaging, and genetics to better characterize the boundaries that separate mental disorders from typical development and from each other. We also study how individual differences within a certain disorder render observed heterogeneous patterns that blur those boundaries. We develop novel computational tools and paradigms to facilitate such studies.


Fuzzy Categorical Nature of ASD
Within recent models of the disorder, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is conceptualized as a condition that combines categorical and dimensional attributes. In such models, ASD is considered to be separated from typical development and other psychiatric disorders in a graded manner. Inspired by in-...