Amen Clinics & Brain SPECT Imaging

Spect scans of the author's brain taken at Amen Clinic in Newport Beach, California. In the four surface views on the left, the less active regions of the brain show up as holes or dents. The scans on the right show the most active 15 % of the brain in red and white. Photo: Daniel Amen
“I belong to the only group of doctors that never looks at the organ they treat,” said Dr. Daniel Amen at the recent presentation on Brain SPECT Imaging which marked the official opening of the New York Amen Clinic in midtown Manhattan. He is, of course, referring to psychiatrists, and the organ is, of course, the brain. Different from fMRIs which provide pictures of the brain, SPECT (Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography) imaging looks at how the brain functions. Uncovering the level of brain activity is essential to fully understanding a person’s problems. Utilizing a comprehensive assessment which includes imaging, targeted lab studies, and spiritual assessment (that’s right…”Why did you get up this morning? What does your life mean?”), Dr. Amen and his team seek to find natural ways to heal the brain such as hypnosis, biofeedback, relaxation therapy, and supplements (fish oil) along with more standard clinical practices.

Over the course of 21 years, the six Amen Clinics spanning the United States have performed and evaluated over 73,000 brain SPECT scans, compiling the world’s largest database of brain scans for behavioral problems. The use of brain SPECT imaging in clinical practice and research has proven to impact the accuracy of diagnosis and the ability to target effective treatments, even for patients who have tried and failed prior treatment. In a recent six-month outcome study with 500 Amen Clinics’ patients of varying ages and locations, 75% showed significant improvement in their condition and 85% reported improved quali8ty of life after implementing their personalized protocols.

In his talk we learned from Dr. Amen that as your weight goes up, your brain size goes down (so pay attention to your diet), 6 hours of sleep a night is protocol, and Rule #1 “Avoid anything that hurts the brain.” Decisions should be made by asking, “Is this good for my brain? Or bad for my brain?” (Moms…that includes teenage boxing and football) and “I love you with all my heart” should be “I love you with all my brain,” except it doesn’t sound as romantic.

Dr. Amen has devoted a large part of his practice to the rehabilitation of professional football players and has worked to reverse the stigma that comes from brain disorders. His research has demonstrated high levels of brain damage in players, with the possibility of significant recovery for many with the principles that underlie his work. For instance, by boosting the Brain Reserve through the simple action of taking a multivitamin and fish oil supplement, it was found that the players can potentially increase their ability to recover from injury even while playing the sport. The SPECT brain scans break denial, decrease stigma and increase compliance. In his brief stint on “Celebrity Rehab,” Dr. Amen was able to convince the iconoclastic basketball player Dennis Rodman that after seeing a SPECT image of his brain, he had a problem and needed help.

In providing the means for accurate diagnosis, the brain SPECT imaging (though costly) saves money in the end and brings more attention and care to disorders by acknowledging them as medical and not moral. The list of areas addressed by the Amen clinics is extensive:
• Complex or treatment resistant conditions
• Traumatic Brain Injuries
• Complex substance abuse and addictions
• Cognitive decline and dementia risk
• Violent or suicidal behaviors
• Seizure Disorders
• Toxicity and Brain infections, such as Lyme
• Complex psychiatric disorders, such as ADHD, anxiety and depression.

Dr. Amen is a physician, double board certified psychiatrist, teacher and a distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He is the author of 51 professional articles, five book chapters, and over 30 books, including five New York Times bestsellers. For more information on the Amen Clinics, especially the one that’s just opened in New York City visit


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