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New Book by Barron Explores the Future of Psychiatry

December 16, 2020
by Jordan Sisson

A former Yale Psychiatry resident has written a book that explores the future of psychiatry.

“Reading Our Minds: The Rise of Big Data Psychiatry,” is the first book by Daniel Barron, MD, PhD, currently a fellow in Pain Medicine at the University of Washington, and published by Columbia Global Reports, an imprint of Columbia University Press. The book was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is available for pre-order ahead of its April 2021 release.

The psychiatric clinical exam is a conversation that begins with, "Can you help me understand what's going on?" During this conversation, the psychiatrist will skillfully observe the patient and use their judgement to parse out how to help. But clinical skills and judgement can differ across psychiatrists in ways that are not clear: two psychiatrists might observe the same patient and disagree about how to help. Or if they agree, they might do so for different reasons. Further, the conversation relies on a patient's ability to sense, interpret, and report their experience; all of which can be impaired. The question, Barron argues, is scientific: how can psychiatry define reliable data to ensure it makes good decisions?

“What modern psychiatry needs is sensors, numbers, and algorithms. Our brain function, facial expression, sleep pattern, online behavior, and geolocation can tell us a lot, just as doctors use their automated sphygmomanometer to measure blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygenation level to successfully predict heart disease. Lab results, blood tests, and physical exam measures heralded the Big Data approach to medicine decades ago. It is time that psychiatry undergoes the same transformation.”

Barron asks provocative and important questions: Is psychiatry scientific enough? And how can psychiatry be more scientific? At once pioneering and engaging, Reading Our Minds introduces readers to a series of digital tools that can help psychiatry become more rigorous and bring the practice firmly into the 21st-century.

Barron earned his MD from Yale School of Medicine and his PhD from UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, Texas. A member of the Neuroscience Research Training Program at Yale Psychiatry, Daniel received the Thomas P. Detre Fellowship Award and the Society of Biological Psychiatry Chair’s Choice Award. He served as Chief Resident of the Clinical Neuroscience Research Unit and as Chief Resident of the Neuroscience Research Training Program.

Submitted by Jordan Sisson on December 15, 2020