Brain SPECT Made Ridiculously Simple: Part 2
When it comes to psychiatry, brain imaging changes everything. In Part 1 of this blog, you learned the basics about brain SPECT imaging and why it’s considered the future of psychiatry. In this part, you will discover some of the common patterns seen in SPECT brain scans, what may be causing them, and the corresponding interventions.
Brain SPECT Imaging Pattern 1: Scalloping/Overall Decreased Activity
SPECT Scans: Scalloping Examples
Inhalant Abuse: Moderate to severe scalloping
Chemotherapy and Radiation: Moderate to severe scalloping
One of the first things I learned from our brain imaging work is that drugs and alcohol are bad for the brain and lead to a pattern called scalloping or overall decreased activity. Over the years, I realized that some people who didn’t use drugs or alcohol had the same pattern. When we see this pattern, we ask why. For example, I met with a couple who failed marital therapy. The husband had been a good-natured guy when they married 15 years earlier, but in the past 8 years, he had developed a bad temper and would lash out at his wife. It turned out the guy worked in a factory that finished furniture and he was being exposed to toxins all day long that were damaging his brain. It would be easy to say the guy’s a jerk and you should divorce him, but the harder question is to ask why? When this man got out of that toxic environment and followed other treatment recommendations, the anger diminished and their marriage survived.
Scalloping can be caused by:
• Toxicity (drugs or alcohol)
• Environmental toxins
• Carbon monoxide poisoning (firefighters)
• Anoxia (near drowning episode, heart attack where you stopped breathing)
• Severe anemia
Stop the toxin.
Brain rehab program (put the brain in a healing environment)
Brain SPECT Imaging Pattern 2: Overall Increased Activity
SPECT Scans: Overall Increased Activity Examples
Bipolar Disorder, Manic: Overall increased activity
Lupus Flare: Overall increased activity
Ring of Fire ADHD: Overall increased activity
Obsessional Psychotic State: Overall increased activity
This pattern is commonly seen in bipolar disorder during manic episodes; in inflammatory processes, such as lupus or other autoimmune disorders; and in types of ADHD that are typically made worse by stimulant medication. We call this pattern in ADHD the Ring of Fire. One mother brought her 10-year-old son to see us after he had been diagnosed with ADHD and placed on stimulant medication (Ritalin). On the medication, his symptoms had worsened, and he would scream and throw temper tantrums when asked to do something. When we scanned his brain, it showed the Ring of Fire pattern. After changing his medication and his diet, his behavior improved tremendously.
• Work up and treat inflammation, such as lupus, or food allergies
• Eliminate allergens
• Calming interventions – GABA, magnesium, anticonvulsants
Brain SPECT Imaging Pattern 3: Traumatic Brain Injury
SPECT Scans: Traumatic Brain Injury Examples
Fall from roof: Frontal and left temporal lobe damage
Motorcycle accident: Damage to whole right side of brain
Traumatic brain injuries are more common than you think. In fact, 40 percent of the patients we see at Amen Clinics have experienced a brain injury. I worked with a captain in the Marines, who had suffered multiple head injuries while on duty. Although he seemed to have healed physically, he began experiencing intense headaches, became prone to angry outbursts, and had trouble concentrating and focusing. When he saw the damage to his right temporal lobe on SPECT, he was determined to improve his brain health. On our brain rehab program, the headaches went away and he felt a dramatic improvement in his personality and focus.
On brain SPECT imaging, TBIs can appear in different forms, including:
• Focal deficits (one area affected)
• Asymmetries, where one side is hurt, but the other side not)
• Decreases of the prefrontal cortex (91%) and temporal loves (70%)
Brain rehab program:
In Part 3 of this blog, you will discover three additional common brain SPECT imaging patterns, the conditions they are associated with, and the corresponding interventions.
The Amen Clinics has been using brain SPECT imaging with its patients since 1991 and has the world’s largest functional brain imaging database related to brain health/mental health issues with over 150,000 SPECT scans on patients from 120 countries.
If you or someone you know would like more information about brain SPECT imaging at Amen Clinics, watch these two videos (Part 1 and Part 2), or to make an appointment, visit us online or call: 1-888-288-9834.