Public Release: 

Discovering the brain mechanisms to diagnose diseases and prescribe treatments

University of São Paulo Medical School

Scientists from the Faculty of Medicine of the University of São Paulo, in Brazil, in collaboration with the University College of London, in the U.K., realized a research that has published in the journal Scientific Reports on the brain mechanisms used by doctors to diagnose diseases and prescribe treatments. Understanding these mechanisms may assist in the development of approaches to reduce medical errors.

This study showed that diagnosing diseases and prescribing treatments engage the same brain system involved in the identification and naming things in everyday life. The results indicate that highly diagnostic information for example, an HIV positive test, lessening uncertainty regarding the final diagnosis, reduces brain attentional mechanisms during the diagnostic process. This decrease of the attentional focus may provoke premature diagnostic closure, a common cause of diagnostic errors.

Another relevant finding is a possible brain mechanism and process through which doctors become aware of the diagnoses they make. Concluding, these results open new ways to the development of methodologies that improve medical accuracy and contribute to a better understanding of the mechanisms involved in decision making in general.

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