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Brain SPECT Imaging Predicts Outcomes in Depressed Patients

Brain SPECT Imaging Predicts Outcomes in Depressed Patients

New research from Amen Clinics shows that brain SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) imaging, a study that measures blood flow and activity patterns, identifies who is more likely to get better from depression. The study is published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, because depression is a highly treatable risk for cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.

Depression remains an important risk factor for Alzheimer’s dementia, yet few neuroimaging biomarkers are available to identify treatment response in depression.

The researchers compared the SPECT scans of 507 depressed patients who responded to treatment to the scans of 106 patients who were considered non-responders. The objective was to analyze and compare functional perfusion neuroimaging in persons with treatment resistant depression (TRD) compared to those experiencing full remission. The study found that patients who did not respond to treatment had lower overall cerebral blood flow, especially in the frontal, temporal, and parietal lobes and in brain regions known to be affected by Alzheimer’s, including the right hippocampus and left precuneus.

Lead author psychiatrist Daniel G. Amen, MD says, “This is a critically important study. Knowing who is likely to get better from depression and who is not, will help treating physicians be sensitive to which patients are likely to need more help and need to be monitored more closely.” Treatment resistant depression is a major risk factor for suicide, divorce, and job loss. Dr. Amen also says, “This finding will also lead to more personalized treatment. For patients with low brain activity, stimulating the brain will be more important than standard serotonin enhancing drugs that tend to lower brain activity.”

Our findings identify imaging based biomarkers in persons with depression related to treatment response. These findings have implications in understanding both depression to prognosis and its role as a risk factor for dementia.

If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or depression, Amen Clinics can help. We will help you learn more about your brain and assist with early diagnosis and intervention. Call us today at (888) 288-9834 or visit our website to schedule a visit.

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  1. Paul Antonucci says:

    Where in Houston can I get a brain spect image?

    • Amen Clinics says:

      Hello Paul, we hope to open a location in TX but for now you can call our Care Coordinators and they can help with referrals for practices in your area that offer Brain SPECT Imaging and follow our Amen Clinics Method. They can be reached at 888-288-9834 or by completing this form – https://www.amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    • Lisa K says:

      Be careful, everyone. SPECT scans involve injections with toxic chemicals. This is not a light procedure. Please do your research before you get a scan. And even if your scan finds low “perfusion,” what can you do about it? There’s not much. Caution….

      • What are the chemicals called? says:

        Hi Lisa – What are the chemicals called that are used in a SPECT scan so I can research them??

      • Maddy says:

        Lisa K – Thank you! You are correct! I just looked this up. The are radioactive chemicals – Very concerning!!! Definitely need to weigh the risk, even if they say it’s relatively safe. I’m not sure this is a good idea just to get a gauge on your brain health unless you are experiencing problems. I am going to cancel my procedure after researching this.

        I found this on one website:
        “Prior to the SPECT scan, the patient is injected with a radioactive chemical that emits the gamma rays necessary to be picked up by the scanner. The computer on the CT scanner picks up the information from the radioactive tracer and translates the images into two-dimensional cross-sections of the body.

        The cross sections can then be put together to create a three dimensional image of the brain. The most common radioisotopes used in SPECT scanning that label the tracer chemicals are iodine 123, xenon 133, fluorine 18 and thallium 201.”

        • Amen Clinics says:

          The radiotracer that we use for SPECT is called Technetium 99m. Its signal is detected by the scanner. Combining Tc99m with other molecules (like HMPAO – “Ceretec”) allows Tc99m to enter specific/desired tissues. This allows us to understand the functioning of that tissue.

          SPECT requires an injection of 20 to 25mCi (millicuries, the measure of radioactivity inherent to a radiopharmaceutical – in our case, Technetium 99m). The biological effect a dose of radioactivity has on tissues (effective dose), cannot be linearly extrapolated from the radioactivity of a dose of administered radioisotope, and it varies with tissues, so a total radioactivity exposure (effective dose) for the whole body is calculated. This is measured in rem (Roentgen equivalents to man) or Sieverts (one Sievert = 100 rem).

          The average radiation exposure for one SPECT scan is 0.7 rem. Two of our SPECT scans are roughly equivalent to, or a bit less than, one CT scan of the abdomen or pelvis (about 0.7, depending on protocol).

          This amount of exposure is well below the cut-off level (10.0 rem) for any known potential or observable health risks.

          About 5% of the total dose goes to the brain. About 40% of the tracer is excreted within minutes by the kidneys and the remainder by the gallbladder over about 24 hours. Tc99m has a half-life of just over 6 hours. We always encourage patients to drink plenty of water.


    Hi there; I have requested information and cost, I live in Vanocuver BC, the Bellevue, WA clinic is ideal and would like to try your brain spect imaging. I have not received an awser so far, thank you, FJ

    • Amen Clinics says:

      Hello Francisco, thank you for reaching out and letting us know. We will have someone reach out to you right away. If you’d like to reach us in the interim, you can call 949-266-3715.

      • YELSG says:

        I have not heard back from the Bellevue location either. Are there any clinics in the US where Dr. Amen practices directly with patients?
        Thank you.

        • Amen Clinics says:

          Hello, thank you for reaching out and letting us know. Dr. Amen doesn’t take patients anymore, but we’d be happy to reach out to you and connect you with our Bellevue location.

  3. Madelyn says:

    Can you tell me if you have had any success or experience in treating Aphantasia.
    Thank you

  4. Tammie Campbell Franz says:

    Hi , I am interested to know if there is any place close to Cols Ohio that I could get a Spect test done and does insurance typically cover this ?

    • Amen Clinics says:

      Hello Tammie, you can call our Care Coordinators and they can help with referrals for practices in your area that offer Brain SPECT Imaging and follow our Amen Clinics Method. They can be reached at 888-288-9834 or by completing this form – https://www.amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/. Our Care Coordinators can also go over insurance with you, as well as reimbursement and financing options.

  5. Candice says:

    Hi, I am interested in finding someone in Michigan who does SPECT scans and follows your protocols? As well as the closest clinic to Goldendale, Washington?

  6. Lisa says:

    Are the scans covered by insurance?

  7. Giovanni says:

    You pay about $4000 for them to tell you what parts of the brain are damaged or what parts have excessive activity or no blood flow. Then they give you recommendations but they barely follow up on you to see how you are doing. One follow up is included and they rush you out. They suggest other testing which are not covered by insurance. At the end, if you go through all the recommendations you end up paying thousands of dollars. My brother didn’t get the help he needed except for the fact that he saw his brain was damaged.

    • Lisa K says:

      Thank you for sharing this.

      • Constance Hober says:

        I disagree. Yes, it is expensive, but if you have insurance, they will file for you and helps with your deductibles. I go to the Amen clinic every 3 months for follow up, we love our doctor. I am 60 and going thru this process and now, we have our 16 year going thru the same process. So far, we are happy with our results. They do not turn their backs on you, if must have refused to keep seeing your doctor. That is not their fault. I have had issues since 2003, and have spent lots of money, so $4,000 would have been better than my past 15 years. You get out what you put in. The location in Atlanta even recognizes me when I come in. Calming and very friendly. The doctor has loads of information.

    • Tony says:

      Actually my son got the scan, I am glad we did. We are moving it the right direction.

  8. Margaret Deeble says:

    I have found a place in Australia that does SPECT but how can that then be followed up with Amen Clinic Protocol? Giovanni’s experience is a little worrying though as I was trying to find a way of going to the Amen Clinic. Everyone else so far seems to have been very satisfied with the help given. I use a number of the products and have found them helpful, but I have also had systemic mould and fungus with resultant inflammation plus what I thought at the time was a breakdown. So a little difficult to know the real reason
    why I feel so bad. Hence the need for the scan and competent follow up.

  9. Gillian Brown says:

    Do you have any referring colleagues in Toronto Ontario working along the Amen Clinic methodology for brain SPECT imaging?
    Interested in cognitive health.

  10. VS says:

    I’m curious if you have to stop all treatments before an evaluation? I watched the video and it said if your thyroid function is out of whack, treatments may not work. I’m currently trying some Aryuvedic treatments for my thyroid function and cortisol levels and want to continue but am also interested in an evaluation.

  11. Payal Mittal says:


    I have been suffering from chronic pain in my head which leads to mood swings, depression, etc.

    I am based in New Delhi, India. Can you pls suggest which healthcare facility here offers Spect and a follow up treatment.

    I wrote to you earlier as well, but did not hear back.

    Look foward to some help this time. Thank you sooo much in advance!


    • Witheld says:

      SPECT and the interview, and the Genomind Genecept Assay got me the right medication on the first try. But, in some cases, migraine or head pain can be an upper cervical chiropractic issue (esp. if it seems like Meniere’s – dizzy/vertigo, ringing ears). Find an upper cervical chiropracter, you’d have relief after the first treatment if the problem was mechanical. http://www.nucca.org/directory/ – ask them about international practictioners.

  12. Payal Mittal says:

    Ofcourse, it would be best if you can recommend doctors who work on Amen Clinics methodology. And if not, would it work if i got spect scan done in Delhi and consulted doctors at amen clinic.







    • Amen Clinics says:

      Hello Paulina, thank you for reaching out. We will have a Care Coordinator reach out to you to discuss treatment options and an appointment at our Washington DC clinic.

  14. ZAIRA FAVEL says:

    I live in Illinois, is there a clinic close to me at Chicago area?


  15. DF says:

    Hello Dr. Amen.
    Might SPECT imaging and Brain Smart Therapy be a viable treatment option for a daughter with Borderline Personality Disorder/OCD/Depression? If so, I would truly like to have a conversation with you or recommended expert. Kind regards, DF

  16. Molly says:

    Hi does the scan detect bipolar disorder is their a plan to help it after scan? I live in ny where is the closest available

  17. Silvana Lowery. says:

    Please, need help, do you have a clinic that perform SPECT in Charlotte, NC? Thank you.

  18. Joshua says:

    Hello, I am located in Toronto and am interested in brain spect imaging. I have ADHD, have sustained multiple past concussions, as well as I deal with periods of depression. I would like a referral for my area.


  19. Deborah Oser says:

    I have a 28 year old son who has been diagnosed with “brain fog”. He has been on and off several medications over the past few years, none have helped. I think I know enough about the brain scan you guys do, what I’m curious about is do you do any other testing when a patient comes in? He has been through a lot over the last few years, and I would like to see someone address other possible causes like foods and diet or hormonal issues. Do you do any testing besides the brain scan?

  20. VK says:

    I would like to know if your clinic had any positive experience treating anxiety and depression ?


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