Posted on May 26, 2009 · Posted in Brain Injury staff article

I have been involved in dog training for some time and as such, I spend a great deal of time researching new findings in how dogs learn. Developments are fast and furious in the realm of dog behavior with major studies usurping our traditional ideas of how dogs think and why they do what they do. From University of Pennsylvania’s current year-long study into dog aggression to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s stand on acceptable training methods…it is a field in transition.

So it is with some interest that an article featured in the Los Angeles Times today regarding current deliberations going on over the DSM – V, the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It was one of those headlines which caught my eye and made me think, of course, why shouldn’t it be updated?

If we are publishing changes in our thinking on the subject of canine brains, isn’t it a certainty that we need to revamp our thinking on the human brain? Advances in research, technology and a change in our society should be reflected when dealing with the topic of human mental functioning.

According to the La Times article, this will affect what services people will be eligible for, anti-discrimination laws, and what insurance companies will cover. Medicalizing mental disorders will bring about a wider range of care.

The DSM-V is expected to go into more detail and also take into consideration many different factors such as age, race, gender, culture and physical health.

The DSM-V has been under scrutiny because of ties to the pharmaceutical industry. The New England Journal of Medicine commented on May 7 that “56% of DSM-V task force and committee members have industry ties.” Committee members are required to abide by conflict-of-interest rules with caps on the amount they can receive from the pharmaceutical industry while serving on committee.

I think it is a development well worth keeping an eye on. With all the changes in our ideas about addiction, developments in brain imaging and genetics, as well as the increasing occurrence of conditions such as autism and bi-polar disorder, it will be interesting to see how these changes will be reflected in the revised edition. With the care of so many dictated by the DSM-V and services approved or denied based on its guidelines, we can only hope that the promise of a more science-based measuring tool will soon become a reality.

It is cause for some concern that the so-called ‘bible of psychiatry’ is not as dynamic as the fields of technology which surround it. As psychiatrists spend the next 18 months debating the issues to be addressed in the new edition, one has to wonder at its relevance in a world in which technology is moving forward so quickly.

Los Angeles Times Article:,0,3081443.story

About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447