Does Treating Mental Health Issues Make You Lose Your Sense of Humor?

Jessimae Peluso

Amen Clinics attracts some very successful people—superstar musicians, athletes, actors, and CEOs—who want to get their brain scanned. Their hope is that seeing what’s happening inside their head will help them find a path to decreasing symptoms, whether they’re experiencing depression, anxiety, obsessiveness, trouble with focus and attention, PTSD, addictions, eating disorders, or other issues. They all want to feel happier, but many of them have a common concern.

If they enhance their brain health, will it take away the unique or quirky part of their personality that makes them special and that helped them achieve so much success in the first place? Will it dull their creativity? Will it make them less likely to take the necessary risks to reach greatness? Will it make them boring?

That’s what stand-up comedian and host of the Sharp Tongue and Highlarious podcasts, Jessimae Peluso, wanted to know when she came to Amen Clinics for a brain scan and evaluation as part of an influencer series called “Scan My Brain.” She asked psychiatrist and neuroscientist Daniel G. Amen, MD, the founder of Amen Clinics: “What if my broken brain is the thing that makes me funny?”

Comedian Jessimae Peluso asked psychiatrist and neuroscientist Daniel G. Amen, MD, the founder of Amen Clinics: “What if my broken brain is the thing that makes me funny?” Click To Tweet

Mental Health Is No Laughing Matter

Peluso has spent a lifetime struggling with attention issues. In school, she was smart, but she caused problems. “I had a permanent desk in the hallway,” she admitted, “because I drove the teacher so nuts because I was more focused on entertaining and just saying whatever came to my brain.”

As an adult, she wants to be able to follow through on projects without a million interruptions. “Without first Swiffering the kitchen, eating half a sandwich, going back and checking my text messages, walking out to the front to rake the yard,” she said. In her everyday life, it’s like “I’ve done 1000 things, but I never finished the thing that I set off to do.”

The comedian had never really thought much about the health of her brain until her dad developed Alzheimer’s disease and died from it in 2018. That prompted her to invite Dr. Amen as a guest on her Sharpe Tongue podcast. The conversation about brain health and its relationship to psychiatric issues piqued her curiosity, and she decided to visit Amen Clinics for a brain SPECT scan. SPECT is a sophisticated brain mapping tool that measures blood flow and activity in the brain. It shows 3 things:

  • Areas of the brain with healthy activity
  • Areas of the brain with low activity
  • Areas of the brain with too much activity

Peluso was hoping she could learn more about her brain so she could improve her attention and focus and help prevent dementia, which has a genetic component. When one or both parents have Alzheimer’s disease it increases the likelihood that their offspring will develop it someday. “I would not like that house guest up here whatsoever,” Peluso said with a laugh.

What Jessimae Peluso Saw in Her Brain Scan

When Dr. Amen revealed Peluso’s brain scan to her, she asked “Why does it look like a smiley face?” She was referring to what looked like two big holes near the top of the scan. As Dr. Amen explained, the holes aren’t really holes, rather they indicate areas of low blood flow. Here’s a closer look at two areas of concern in Peluso’s brain.

  • Underactivity in the prefrontal cortex: In Peluso’s scan, the two big holes she noticed were in the front part of the brain in an area called the prefrontal cortex (PFC). The PFC is involved in attention, focus, planning, organization, follow-through, impulse control, judgment, empathy, and more. When blood flow and activity are low in this brain region, it is associated with problems with these functions. It is a brain pattern that is commonly seen in people with ADD/ADHD. Considering the issues Peluso described, in addition to the results of sophisticated assessments she completed at Amen Clinics, the diagnosis of ADD/ADHD fit.
  • Scalloping: On SPECT, the surface of a healthy brain looks smooth, with full, even, symmetrical blood flow and activity. That’s not what Peluso’s looked like. The comedian’s brain had a bumpy or scalloped appearance that signals overall decreased activity and blood flow.

“It looks like an aerial view of Arizona,” Peluso quipped.

Dr. Amen explained that scalloping is often a sign of toxicity, such as alcohol or drug use. It can also be associated with environmental toxins, chemotherapy, carbon monoxide poisoning, infections, hypothyroidism, severe anemia, or anoxia (a lack of oxygen to the brain, such as from a near-drowning incident or a heart attack).

As the host of the “Highlarious” podcast, Peluso is admittedly an avid pot smoker. She didn’t like learning that an Amen Clinics study with 65,424 brain SPECT scans found that marijuana use prematurely ages the brain.

A Better Brain and a Better, Funnier Life

Peluso’s brain, according to Dr. Amen, was not on a healthy path. He showed her a progression of what her brain could look like 10 years from now if she didn’t make any changes to her lifestyle. It wasn’t pretty.

“That looks like a horror movie set,” said Peluso, cringing.

When Dr. Amen showed her a SPECT scan of the brain of someone with Alzheimer’s disease, it really hit home for the comedian. “That gives me so much anxiety,” she said of the scan that looked like it was full of giant holes indicating a lack of activity.

Seeing a different progression of how much healthier and younger her brain could look in 10 years if she adopted better brain habits and eliminated toxins from her life sparked hope. But it also made her wonder, “How will this affect me as a comedian?”

Dr. Amen assured her that having a healthier brain will make her better—a more consistent performer, more adept with the business side of things, and happier overall. “You’ll still be able to look at things in an unusual way. Right? That’s what makes you funny,” he said. “But you’ll be able to follow through.”

ADD/ADHD, anxiety, and other mental health issues can’t wait. During these uncertain times, your mental well-being is more important than ever, and waiting until life gets back to “normal” is likely to make your symptoms worsen over time.

At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

9 Comments

  1. I have a much better understanding of the SPECT purpose now. I will have to go back and read my Brain Type and Blood flow results. Thank you again Dr. Amen.

    Comment by Ronald Lucker — June 2, 2021 @ 6:00 AM

  2. Would like more information on a Brain Scan. I was diagnosed BiPolar 14 years ago. I’m 59. I was prescribed 600mg Lithium and 200mg Lamotrigine . I drink alcoholic every day but my bloodwork shows no sign of stress on my liver or kidneys. My grandmother died of Alzheimer’s. I have memory issues and my primary physician has referred me to a clinic for evaluation, at my request. Will MedCal authorize a Brain Scan?

    Comment by Sheri Torre — June 2, 2021 @ 7:53 AM

  3. How did you treat? Medication or diet/supplements?

    Comment by Andrea — June 2, 2021 @ 9:12 AM

  4. About “will I still be funny” – absolutely not Kemo Sabe! I used to be so funny, attracted people that way. Then I got probably as well as I can be after many years of therapy. Not so funny any more, oh, I have my moments but really not the same. Of course I’m on the whole much happier, not plagued all the time with what you call dragons, but not all time funny. In fact, one of my “friends” said “Sarah, now that you got well you’re not funny anymore”. How do you like that? Well, I didn’t. But it was a trade off, no longer go around saying “I’m so confused” and I was. So please, stop telling people it won’t change. Thanks.

    Comment by Sarah A Long — June 2, 2021 @ 9:26 AM

  5. I have had issues with comprehension since I was young. Is there anything I can do to help improve this, or am I to old ( I’m 73).

    Comment by Barb Kopaska — June 2, 2021 @ 10:03 AM

  6. Hey Andrea,
    Thanks for reaching out. Stay tuned for part 2 of Jessimae’s evaluation with Dr. Amen which should be going up on our YouTube channel in the next few days. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdHz-vi0JIugmscU_CkUxUQ

    Comment by Amen Clinics — June 2, 2021 @ 3:10 PM

  7. Hello Sheri,
    Thank you for reaching out. We’d be more than happy to reach out to you directly with more information regarding pricing, financing, insurance, and scheduling an appointment at one of our 9 clinics. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — June 2, 2021 @ 3:12 PM

  8. I was diagnosed with depression and personality disorder in 1993. Only because they didn’t know me well enough. I was the diagnosed with skitzo-affective disorder a year later, the changed the diagnosis skitzophrenia in 2000. Im 100% connected to the VA. Because of these diagnosis’s. As you know rather VA just puts a bandaid on things,, even major mental health issues like me.My soul was ripped from me in 1993 and left me with depression for 28 years. I will be 50 next week and feel I havent lived yet and missed out on everything. What can. The amen clinic do for me???

    Comment by Derek Upshaw — June 2, 2021 @ 4:47 PM

  9. What are some examples toward achieving better brain health?

    Comment by RosanaKahiwalani — June 5, 2021 @ 8:27 AM

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