Frontiers of Psychiatry – Digital and Neuroscientific Approaches By Dr Arshya Vahabzadeh

Posted on: February 3, 2017
Last Updated: September 5, 2020

Dr. Arshya Vahabzadeh is a Harvard-trained physician-technologist trained in paediatric psychiatry, adult psychiatry, and family medicine. He is the innovation officer of the Massachusetts General Psychiatry Academy and the Chairman of the Council of Communications of the American Psychiatric Association. He is an expert on the use of new technologies for mental health disorders. Dr Vahabzadeh has received over 20 national and international awards and has been recognised as a “40 under 40” healthcare innovator. He believes that a convergence of clinical neuroscience, data science, and exponential technologies can result in transformational change for global mental health.

Author Quotes

Part of me does really believe that there are some really extraordinary changes that are going to be coming, but part of me also knows that many people have said that change is in brain science and neuroscience are going to dramatically change the field. But as a frontline clinician, I haven’t seen that really happen in any dramatic way.

What is disabling our youth and young adults?

Mental illness is the leading cause of disability in the United States.

Suicide is a top ten cause of death in the United States.

We face a global mental health crisis.

It takes millions and decades to train a human. But what can technology do very quickly? We can get huge amounts of data very quickly, download a mental health app in seconds and run a clinical simulation almost instantly.

Summary and slides

Where are we now?

Current research and clinical practice can be conceptualised as –

  1. Categorical assessment is likened to “What’s your address?- I’m on planet Earth” (imprecise but correct)
  2. Severity ratings are likened to “What’s your address? – I’m in North America.” – (a broader capture of the concept)
  3. Technology allows us to pinpoint Precise Quantitative Metrics – likened to “Where exactly are you?” (precise location)

Key issues in Mental Health

  • Access
  • Stigma
  • Cost
  • Research
  • Data

Dr. Vahabzadeh presents a summary of the global and economic impact of mental illness through to 2030 and emphasises how it will affect countries like China and India.  

He discusses how suicide rates are rising and how mental illness is disabling our youth.

He describes how smart devices can use data very quickly and how clinical simulations can be run using the available technology. 

Concluding this short video excerpt, Dr. Vahabzadeh discusses how augmented and virtual reality technology is now used by several different companies, and how the technology is set to become even more widespread in the future. 

Want to know more?  Click here to see the video on the 52 Symptoms of Depression and What depression really looks like.

Take-Home Points  

  • Categorical assessment can be imprecise 
  • Technology is available today which can be utilised for research and clinical purposes 
  • Mental illness is a major factor in the long-term health of our youth and young adults 


Learn more

  1. From Apps to Systems in Mental Health Assessment and Management – Dr. Arshya Vahabzadeh
  2. Bridging the Mind-body Gap – Digital and Neuroscientific Approaches Q&A – Dr. Arshya Vahabzadeh
  3. Technology Advancements in Psychiatry – Part 2 – Dr. Arshya Vahabzadeh
  4. Technological Advances in Psychiatry – From Couch to Cloud by Arshya Vahabzadeh
  5. Technology and The Converging Paths of Mental Health – Dr Arshya Vahabzadeh
  6. The Digital Conceptualisation of Depression – Dr Arshya Vahabzadeh