Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dr. Mercola - Why Psychiatry Needs to Add Brain SPECT Imaging, Especially in Complex Cases

One of my own recent interests has been brain plasticity - the ability of your brain to recover, repair, and regain functionality that had previously been lost. This idea conflicts with the conventional view that once you lose brain function, it's permanently lost.

Dr. Daniel Amen is a physician and board-certified psychiatrist. He's written five New York Times bestselling books, and is the medical director of the Amen Clinics in Newport Beach in San Francisco, California; Bellevue, Washington; Reston, Virginia; Atlanta, Georgia; and New York City.   and

He's also one of the foremost experts on brain imaging science, which is the topic of discussion in this interview. Brain plasticity features heavily in Dr. Amen's work with SPECT imaging...

SPECT Imaging - An Invaluable New Tool for Psychiatry

That the human brain has a tremendous amount of 'plasticity' was demonstrated in one of Dr. Amen's studies on active and former NFL players. Football players may have been hit in the head upward of 10,000-20,000 times in their lifetime, and this results in a significant amount of brain damage for many. On Dr. Amen's program, 80 percent of them showed significant improvement, including boosting function and blood flow to the prefrontal cortex....
 It's very exciting," Dr. Amen says. "I often say psychiatrists are the only medical doctors that never look at the organ they treat. And when you never look at it, you miss brain trauma, you miss seizure activity, and you miss toxicity...

I'm a classically trained psychiatrist... I was taught to use psychotherapy and medications, and that's pretty much it. Some of the medications I was taught to use like Xanax, Ativan, or Valium for anxiety disorders, when I first started ordering SPECT scans, I saw that they made the brain look like [it had been exposed to] alcohol, and that they were really toxic to brain function. That horrified me, and it was the imaging work that led me to look for natural ways to decrease anxiety."

... When we make a diagnosis, for example of depression, it's a symptom. It shouldn't be a diagnosis. Making the diagnosis of depression, I tell people, is like making the diagnosis of chest pain. And doctors don't give people the diagnosis of chest pain, because it doesn't tell you what's causing it, and it doesn't tell you what to do it for. Depression is the same way...

A traumatic brain injury can also result in symptoms of depression. In fact, according to Dr. Amen, this is very common.

...a patient recently who is diagnosed with ADD...When we scanned him, he had a totally toxic-looking brain. Of course, you have ADD symptoms if you know there's damage to the front part of your brain. It turned out he had arsenic poisoning. He needed a detoxification program, not more Adderall."nine-year-old son, Andrew.  The boy had attacked a little girl on the baseball field that day for no particular reason...What we found was he had a cyst the size of a golf ball occupying the space of his left temporal lobe. It's an area we've subsequently really tagged to violent behavior. When they took out the cyst, his behavior went back to last year of a teenage boy who wanted to cut his mother up into little pieces. He had a cyst the size of a tennis ball occupying the space of his left temporal and frontal lobe.

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