10 Practical Lessons from 150,000 Brain Scans

FBF-10 Practical Lessons from 150,000 Brain Scans

Nearly 30 years after we first began our brain imaging work, we have built the world’s largest database of functional brain imaging scans related to behavior. Brain SPECT scans have taught us and our patients so many important lessons. We will provide you with our top 10 lessons, which can help you feel better fast and dramatically change your life.

Lesson #1: Current psychiatric diagnostic models are outdated because they don’t assess the brain.

Today, the typical way most people are diagnosed and treated for mental health issues is by going to a professional and telling him or her their symptoms. The doctor or therapist listens, examines them, looks for symptom clusters, and then diagnoses and treats them. Patients may say, “I’m depressed,” for example, and the doctor will look at them and then give them a diagnosis with the same name—depression. Treatment is typically an antidepressant medication.

Psychiatrists are the only medical specialists who virtually never look at the organ they treat. Cardiologists look, neurologists look, gastroenterologists look, orthopedists look. Psychiatrists guess. There is a better way.

Lesson #2: Psychiatric diagnoses are not single or simple disorders; they all have multiple types, and each requires its own treatment.

This was one of the earliest lessons SPECT taught us. Giving someone the diagnosis of depression is like giving him or her the diagnosis of chest pain. No doctor would do that because it doesn’t identify the cause of the pain or what to do for it. Consider this: What can cause chest pain? Heart attacks, heart arrhythmias, pneumonia, grief, anxiety, chest-wall trauma, gas, and ulcers, just to name a few. Likewise, what can cause depression? Loss, grief, low thyroid, brain infections, brain trauma, a brain that works too hard, or a brain that does not work hard enough. Do you think all of these will respond to the same treatment? Of course not.
We have described seven brain types associated with anxiety and depression, seven types of ADD, six types of addicts, five types of overeaters, and even three types associated with violence. No one treatment will work for everyone who is depressed, anxious, inattentive, addicted, overweight, or aggressive. They all have different brain types.

Lesson #3: Looking at the brain decreases stigma, increases compliance with treatment, and completely changes the discussion around mental health.

When psychiatrists don’t have hard biological data to help them make their diagnoses, many people do not take them seriously. Unfortunately, that leaves a huge emotional hole for patients, who often feel belittled or defective if they have to seek help for a “mental” illness.
Imaging completely changes the discussion around mental health. Quite frankly, few people really want to see a psychiatrist. No one wants to be labeled as defective, crazy, or abnormal, but everyone wants a better brain. What if mental health were really brain health? Scans have taught our patients that lesson over and over.

Lesson #4: If what you’re doing is not working, look at the brain.

Sudden changes in behavior are usually associated with brain trauma, toxins, infections, or a defined emotional trauma.

Lesson #5: Looking at the brain improves outcomes, and people get better faster.

The most important reason to look at the brain is to improve outcomes. That was Dr. Daniel Amen’s clinical experience when he first started scanning patients, but to find out what the data showed, we started a formal outcome study in 2011 on many of the patients we saw. To date we have six-month outcome results on more than 7,000 patients. The study made it crystal clear that in general, we see people with complex issues who have been unsuccessfully treated by multiple health care providers. On average, our patients have 4.2 diagnoses.

Lesson #6: Looking at the brain completely changes the discussion about good and evil.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a map is priceless. A map tells you where you are and gives you directions on how to get where you want to go. Without an accurate map you are lost, and that may cost you precious time in getting the help you need—or it may even cost your life. SPECT imaging is a map to help guide people to better brains and better lives.

Lesson #7: Looking at the brain helps to prevent mistakes.

One of the biggest lessons from imaging was that it helped us prevent mistakes, such as stimulating an overactive brain, calming one that is underactive, or labeling behavior as willful, when it was clearly brain-based.

Lesson #8: Looking at the brain provides hope.

Ever since we started our brain imaging work, the images provide hope that there is a better way, and there is hope for healing.

Lesson #9: Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia start years, even decades, before people have any symptoms.

One of the most profound lessons from our brain imaging work is that Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia can be seen on SPECT scans years before people have any symptoms. SPECT is a leading indicator of problems, meaning it shows evidence of the disease process years before people show signs of it. Anatomical studies, such as CT and MRI, are lagging indicators. They show problems later in the course of the illness, when interventions tend to be less effective.

Lesson #10: The most important lesson from 150,000 scans is that you can change your brain, and it will change your life.

This is the biggest and most exciting lesson our patients have learned from our work. And it is personal.

When Dr. Daniel Amen’s 9 year-old godson attacked a little girl on the baseball field for no apparent reason, it set events in motion that would ultimately lead to a revolution in psychiatric practice.

To learn more new lessons from Dr. Daniel Amen, we recommend reading his new book, “Feel Better Fast And Make It Last.” You can order the book by clicking here.

For more information on how SPECT imaging can help provide a customized treatment plan to help heal your brain, call us today at 888-288-9834 or visit us online to schedule a visit.


  1. Can my neurologist order a spect exam here in Newport News Virginia. I suffer from chronic migraines but most importantly MMD with anxiety. Thank you

    Comment by Tassie — November 23, 2018 @ 5:06 AM

  2. Hello Tassie, our Care Coordinators can assist you with providing a referral for SPECT in your area. We do also have a clinic in Reston, VA: https://amenclinics.com/locations/washington-dc/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — November 23, 2018 @ 9:36 AM

  3. I am very poor having been disabled dincev1999 due to my Chtonic Fatigue. I cannot afford s scab. Is there s waybtonget it through Medicare. If not I’d thete one ofv the Medicare plans I can change to during open enrollment that will pay for this? I am tired of brain fog an Chronic fatigue returning every three or four years an being incapicitatef. What other services or tests do you have that Medicare would pay for.

    Thank you.

    Comment by Shirley — November 23, 2018 @ 6:27 PM

  4. How about making it affordable for all instead of just the well off? I’m sure you know that some people with ADHD have a dismal employment record and desperately need your services, but can’t afford it. Even those with PhDs. They really struggle and their contributions to society are lost.

    Comment by Marion — November 28, 2018 @ 5:31 AM

  5. Does the Amen Clinics accept original Medicare and/or what services or tests does Medicare cover? I’m trying to decide what health care coverage to select for 2019. I live in Pittsford N.Y. and could stay with my daughter in NYC. I’m 67 with a past TBI history. I’ve fallen several times recently in pickleball smacking either the back or front of my head on the wall and my long term memory and motivation are now impaired to the point where I am overwhelmed by almost everything-prior to this happening my short-term memory and executive functioning were the long term effects from my auto accident many years ago.

    I can’t seem to find the medical help here in Rochester. Your feedback is really welcomed at this point. Thank you.

    Comment by Claire Perlman — November 28, 2018 @ 5:41 AM

  6. I have had EBV, Lyme, migraines, anxiety and a host of other issues. Currently on Medicare, is there any treatment they will cover? Thank you, we are desperate for help!

    Comment by Dana — November 28, 2018 @ 6:24 AM

  7. I have felt the need for a SPECT scan for years, I simply cannot afford it. I am a very driven, hard working person but I believe I have to work so hard because there is something mechanically or functionally wrong with my brain. It has been my dream to be part of a brain study and I wonder if that’s an option, a low cost option at that?

    Comment by Tobi Lessem — November 28, 2018 @ 7:27 AM

  8. Spect brain scans are very expensive and beyond affordability for most individuals. If they are/ given that they are such a valuable tool, why are they not more affordable? I would have had my son evaluated and treated with this method years ago, but for the cost. I find it rather shameful, not to mention perplexing, that Spect scanning and subsequent treatment are expensive and beyond reach for so many of us.

    Comment by Sandra beltracch applegate — November 28, 2018 @ 7:58 AM

  9. I was wondeing if The Amen Clinic deals with Essential Tremors. My good friend has them and I wondered if there was
    treatment for this

    Comment by Ellen — November 28, 2018 @ 8:04 AM

  10. Is an FMRI useful in determining brain function and is it as accurate as a SPECT scan?

    Comment by michael siletti — November 28, 2018 @ 9:09 AM

  11. Unfortunately, even though I need SPECT scans, I won’t be able to afford them. I had to go on disability many years ago because of multiple cognitive problems. I know that I was most likely either born with brain problems or had a strong genetic predisposition to them. To make matters worse, when I was a little girl I fell down the stairs and slammed my head against the concrete floor. I felt temporarily lightheaded, but I got up and went my way. Looking back, my personality did change, and other people even noticed it.

    I have tried to get my psychiatrist to do SPECT scans, but I was told it was not indicated because they don’t do them for psychiatric problems. As a result, I will have to be on disability for the rest of my life and remain in poverty. What a shame!

    Looking at the brain is SO important because throughout the years I have had different psychiatrists give me different diagnoses. Many times they contradicted one another. This is a result of guesswork. As a result, I have no confidence in them.

    Comment by Margaret — November 28, 2018 @ 9:44 AM

  12. I need to know if there is a hope and a treatment for someone was born with brain Atrophy?

    Comment by Samar — November 28, 2018 @ 10:21 AM

  13. It is a Wonderland dream to promote a remedy using a diagnostic tool that very few can afford!
    When will insurance pay for diagnosis with SPECT scans?

    Comment by Roger — November 28, 2018 @ 2:24 PM

  14. Any plans to open a clinic in Canada? Thanks. Also, I’m interested if you are looking for people for a clinical trial. (free or compensated participation)

    Comment by Shari — November 28, 2018 @ 5:45 PM

  15. i would love to work with Amen Clinics for myself with brain fog and my daughter with ADD, unfortunately we live in Australia. I wish one of your amazing team would set up on our shores.

    Comment by Debbie Allen — November 28, 2018 @ 8:23 PM

  16. You have been doing brain scans for 30 years yet it is still not the protocol that is followed in the medical community. Why? If it is the solution, why isn’t it? People need more than meds and the stigma that goes with the diagnoses.

    Comment by Mary — November 29, 2018 @ 7:39 AM

  17. Mary, Like most all new advancements in technology, it takes multiple decades before they become even lightly available within the larger medical community. Take the MRI for example, although it was invented way back in 1971, it wasn’t until the early to mid ’90s that it even found its way into the medical hospitals. And it was so very expensive to access it, too, back then. Here we are now, in 2018, and you’ll still find major hospitals that do NOT have their own MRI station. Most hospitals still rely on CT scans, which is literally nothing more than an X-RAY machine with the ability to take repeated images and assemble them into a 3D image. X-RAYs are toxic and dangerous. But its cheaper for the Insurance companies. The MRI uses electro-magnets to create it’s imaging, which is utterly harmless to humans. You could have 20 MRI scans every day without issues. But 20 CT scans in a day would certainly make you sick. MRI scans take longer, are much noisier than CT scanners, and require a specially trained technician, but produce significantly higher resolution images with more detail. In short, MRIs are more expensive and that’s why they’re not the first go-to for imaging – although they should be.
    With regards to SPECT imaging, it requires the injection of a nuclear isotope into the blood stream 15 minutes before being scanned. The isotope has a 6 hour half-life. Thus a person must wait until at least 24 hours before having a second scan done, if needed. The injection itself is very expensive, costing me $900 as a line item when I had a SPECT study performed back in late 2012. A full SPECT study and evaluation requires two scans, one under intense concentration, the other while mentally at neutral (resting but fully awake). Then there’s a third visitation for getting the results shown and explained to you. In total it cost me three office visits over three days, one night in a hotel, as well as the two scans themselves. SPECT scans are significantly more expensive because of all of this. They require specially trained technicians, very different from CT or MRI trained technicians, facilities to handle and store the nuclear isotope injections, as well as very expensive equipment.
    Last week I had a CT scan of my jaw area performed at a private plastic surgeon’s medical suite (not within a major hospital). It cost $150 out of my pocket (no insurance) and took less than 5 minutes in the chair. My entire office visit was over within 30 minutes, including leaving the office with a copy of the CT on a DVD in my hand. The major nearby hospitals (Hermann Memorial) want $400 for this and I’d have to come back on a separate day to get my copy of the imaging.
    Insurance companies don’t want to use SPECT scans either. Once people begin getting their health issues truly solved they won’t be needing all of the medications and repeated doctor office visits. If everyone began eating correctly, taking whatever supplements their specific blood work required, and only the few medications actually needed, that would put a significant dent in the multi-billion dollar insurance and medical industry!
    But now you know about SPECT scans. Get one done for yourself and make the changes in your personal daily care taking. After seeing my SPECT scans….I quit drinking sodas the next day! (I used to drink sodas like a fish drinks water every single day)
    There have only been (I believe) less than 200,000 SPECT scans collected thus far. You’ll still be at the very beginning of when SPECT imaging came of age. I thought I was late to the game when I had mine done at about 100,000 scans. Nope…. the first few million scans are the true beginning.

    Comment by David George — November 29, 2018 @ 2:30 PM

  18. Hello Michael, thank you for reaching out. Here is more information for you about SPECT as well as it’s comparison to fMRI and PET scans: https://amenclinics.com/the-science/why-spect/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — November 30, 2018 @ 11:54 AM

  19. I have homozygous APOe4. I am 58, no findings, good weight, good cholesterol. What interventions are important for me

    Comment by sandra rubin — December 4, 2018 @ 2:09 PM

  20. Thank you for taking the time to elaborate the timeline for implementation of new technology to the many who are expressing frustration over the cost.

    Comment by Tami B — December 6, 2018 @ 6:09 AM

  21. I have enjoyed Dr. Amen’s PBS programs and find his recommendations useful. However, I am concerned that many of the people who could benefit from SPECT imaging and the resulting interventions will never be able to afford them. The supplements available on the website are also too expensive for some who could use them. There are many more reasonable resources for supplements, but they may not have the same quality. I hope the Amen programs will become more accessible to the average person, or find a way for Medicaid, Medicare and other insurance programs to help with the costs.

    Comment by Dr. Carolyn C.K. Phillips — December 11, 2018 @ 9:25 AM

  22. I admit I enjoyed his PBS presentations. However, in the time we are living in health care should be accessible to everyone in some way even if financial assistance is offered. Most patients who are on Medicaid or Medicare are definitely in need of this innovative technology for themselves or children. They have probably gone from many doctors with no answers. What do you say to those families especially to a mother who has a little one being challenged by autism but her pediatrician keeps sending her on a wild goose chase ? This mother does not have a lot of money and she has only have Medicaid. The Amen Clinic offers great treatment but families with limited resources are unable to benefit from them.

    Comment by Sammi — December 18, 2018 @ 8:16 AM

  23. Can you please advise where I can obtain a scan in Australia, more specifically, Western Australia ?
    Thank you.

    Comment by Rayeleen — March 11, 2019 @ 3:06 AM

  24. It’s really not that expensive to get two scans done and the attendant bloodwork, etc. if you were to pay out of pocket for an MRI you’re looking easily at $800 for each ($1,600) maybe more depending on what part of the country you are in and likely another $300 for the bloodwork, BUT you’re not going to get anywhere near the results you get on a SPECT scan. And besides they have CareCredit and you can pay it off over time. However, if your credit is shot and you don’t have a good job you’re not going to be able to pay for the nutritional supplementation to bring your body and brain back to the best state it could be. And no, the garbage they sell in the vitamin stores is not going to do it for you. You need supplements that are especially formulated for purity for them to work and not be destroyed as they go through your intestines. That is much, much more expensive than the SPECT scan in the long run, and trust me, with our food supply being what it is, you are going to need the supplementation. In a worst case scenario, Dr. Amen has a do it yourself kind of program that focuses on nutrition for around $100, I think. Fix your nutrition and you are going to fix many, many of the problems affecting your brain. Until then, keep on putting that money away for the scan. I have been saving for two years and this summer I hope to be taking my son so I can get a definitive diagnosis, since no one, and I mean no one has given me a diagnosis that would explain his multi-symptoms. It’s like a stupid guessing game. I refuse. There is no doubt in my mind that someone needs to take a look at my son’s brain to truly figure out what is gong on with him and his never ending rollercoasters.

    Comment by Rebecca Y. Natal — March 11, 2019 @ 3:36 AM

  25. Can you help someone who had an MRI and MRA and told they had a lucaner infarct –
    No knowledge of such and no risk factors. BP is low – non obese – non smoker – exercises daily – eats healthy
    I do not wish to take aspirin for the remainder of my life – and wonder if Amen clinics can do anything to help me protect myself from another infarct?? Thank you.

    Comment by adrian mallin — March 11, 2019 @ 4:12 AM

  26. Are there any doctors or resources in Huntsville Alabama?

    Comment by Barbara Evans — March 11, 2019 @ 6:34 AM

  27. I am taking my son tomorrow for his first appointment. I wanted to take him for some time. I finally figured out a way to save the money I need. I always get back a tax refund. I went to my payroll dept and added a $50 a paycheck increase to come out of my check. I didn’t even notice it at all. When my tax return check came in this year, I had an extra $1200. That on top of my normal return gave me more then enough to pay for a whole work up.

    Try it, even if you have to take out a little less. Every bit helps!

    Comment by Lynette Williams — March 11, 2019 @ 8:33 AM

  28. I would simply like to know why there is a refusal to answer the questions regarding the cost, publicly. I understand there must be a cost to be able to provide care of any kind, including the research side of it; my husband is an orthopaedic surgeon who deserves to be paid for services rendered but medical costs have become prohibitive for many. It should be mutually accepted that there must be responsibility on the part of patients, as well, to exhaust all avenues to prevent as many ailments as possible, e.g. exercise, proper diet, no smoking, weight loss, etc. It seems to play as much a role in brain health as it does in other parts of the body. Thanks.

    Comment by PamB — March 11, 2019 @ 9:46 AM

  29. Buy or get at the library the first book of Medical Medium, Anthony William. You will change your life first understanding why and then how you can make it better. You can heal! I did!!!

    Comment by Evelyn — March 11, 2019 @ 10:09 PM

  30. Lynette Williams,
    How did your appointments go? I know there are usually three days worth.

    I’m considering making an appointment for my son, but am reading up on the radiation that is injected into the bloodstream and I’m not too keen on that.

    Comment by Dawn — March 21, 2019 @ 4:13 PM

  31. I 100% agree with u. Lifestyle plays major role. Good sleep, diet, socializing, exercise and no smoking. Learn about urself. What type u r. What foods cause troubles you. It can even b a cup of coffee or tea. Even decaf is not completely decaffinated. learn techniques to reduce stress. Acquire knowledge about psychology – which is very easy from non profit websites.These all things can prevent mental illnesses as well as a complementary along with medication.

    I was diagnosed with ADHD and other several mental illnesses at 41. Since my diagnosis the best thing I did was studying about the disorder as much as possible. Believe me my severe symptoms are resolved with little medication.

    Please be patient. Give time to medicine to work. Don’t shy to share with loved one. It’s the reality. It’s a health issue. Every one can get it especially in today’s competitive fast paced world. The introductory phase may be some bothersome symptoms. Stay in touch with your doctor.

    Finally , start loving nature and it’s law. I m Muslim by birth but zero practicing. Try to do something good everyday. It can even b watering plants. You will see something good returning to you. Allow some time to this practice. Once u r connected to nature u will see instant amazing results.

    Comment by Shulman — April 14, 2019 @ 7:39 AM

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