Dr. Amen on Dr. Phil: What’s Wrong with Cameron?

Dr. Amen on Dr. Phil: What’s Wrong with Cameron?

Can being dropped 10 feet on your head as a small child change the trajectory of your life?

“Anxiety can paralyze me. The older I get, the worse it seems to get. It rules my life.” That’s how Cameron, 21, describes his anxiety, which started when he was just a youngster in grade school. That’s also the time when depression first set in. At school, he felt like he didn’t fit in, people made fun of him, and he cried every day. That eventually led to substance abuse as a teen when he started using cocaine, crack, opiates, and benzodiazepines. He became short-tempered, grumpy, and mean and began experiencing panic attacks. He tried Ativan (an anti-anxiety medication), but he says it made him “angry, heavy and put me in a weird mood at night.” It all escalated to a point where Cameron was using substances all day and all night. “I was hoping to die,” he says.

The young man, who still hasn’t graduated high school, has since been to rehab at least 5 times and struggled through 3 stays in psychiatric wards. He’s been sober from “hard drugs” for about a year, but still smokes marijuana and has used LSD. And anxiety and depression? They remain his constant companions, holding him back and keeping him from living the life he wants.


Cameron revealed all this on The Dr. Phil Show on November 4, 2020, which featured neuropsychiatrist Daniel G. Amen, MD, the founder of Amen Clinics and a 12-time bestselling author. In search of help, Cameron visited Amen Clinics where he took neuropsychological assessments and underwent a series of brain SPECT scans. SPECT is a functional brain imaging technology that measures blood flow and activity in the brain. Basically, it shows 3 things: areas with healthy activity, areas with too little activity, and areas with too much activity.

On the Dr. Phil Show, Dr. Amen shared Cameron’s brain scans, which revealed evidence of:

  • Head trauma—mild traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are a major cause of psychiatric symptoms but few people know it because traditional psychiatry rarely looks at the organ it treats. So the answer to our initial question is ABSOLUTELY YES.
  • Decreased activity in the frontal lobes—often seen in people with ADD/ADHD
  • Increased activity in the limbic region—commonly seen in people with depression
  • Overactivity in the basal ganglia—associated with anxiety
  • Too much activity in the right frontal lobe—often seen in people with obsessive thoughts and behaviors
  • Scalloping—associated with substance abuse or exposure to toxins


Cameron’s brain was clearly troubled, which helps explain why he had so much trouble in his life. As Dr. Amen explained on The Dr. Phil Show, mental health problems are really brain health problems that steal your happiness and can ruin your life.


At Amen Clinics, which is the global leader in brain health, the team of neuropsychiatrists, integrative medicine (also called functional medicine) physicians, nutritionists, and other specialists take a brain-body approach to treatment that looks at 4 circles of wellness or illness. To end mental illness, you need to understand all the factors in one’s life that can contribute to mental health (or brain health) problems and optimize them. At Amen Clinics, these factors are called the “4 Circles” of a whole life.

The 4 Circles are:

  • Biological: how your physical body and brain function
  • Psychological: developmental issues and how you think
  • Social: social support, your current life situation, and societal influence
  • Spiritual: your connection to God, the planet, past and future generations, and your deepest sense of meaning and purpose

Investigating the 4 Circles of Cameron’s life revealed several areas of concern:

  • Biological: His brain isn’t healthy and shows signs of trauma. It turns out that at the age of 2, Cameron fell 10 feet down and landed on his head. At age 4, he broke a snow globe on his face, requiring stitches. And he’s suffered several concussions from skateboarding and basketball. In addition, he has a poor diet, is underweight, has trouble sleeping, and is fatigued, among other issues.
  • Psychological: He has negative thinking patterns and has experienced emotional trauma. At the age of 17, he was stabbed and when he was 18, he was held at gunpoint in the woods by people he thought were his friends.
  • Social: He used to go to AA and NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meetings, which can provide a good social network for recovering addicts, but he stopped going because he didn’t think they were working for him.
  • Spiritual: He hasn’t found his purpose in life yet.

Based on Cameron’s comprehensive evaluation, he was diagnosed with a TBI, mood disorder, ADD, substance abuse, and specific phobia (a form of anxiety disorder).


Among the personalized solutions recommended for Cameron are:

  • Medications: targeted to his needs
  • Nutraceuticals: everyday essentials including a multivitamin, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D, plus targeted supplements including GABA, l-theanine, magnesium, and vitamin B6 to calm anxiousness; saffron to promote more positive moods; melatonin and 5-HTP for more restful sleep
  • Brain healthy diet: higher-protein/lower-carbohydrate meals with foods like salmon, walnuts, fruits, and vegetables
  • Protect his head: prevent further head injuries and do hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) to help heal the existing damage to his brain
  • Relaxation exercises: meditation, deep breathing, yoga
  • Calming music: to help support temporal lobe function
  • Kill the ANTs (automatic negative thoughts): challenge his anxious and worrisome thoughts every day
  • Optimize neurohormones: check levels and optimize
  • Improve sleep: develop a healthy sleep routine
  • Coordination exercises: activities like table tennis, air hockey, or dancing

Cameron really wants to get healthy and says he’s committed to getting well in all 4 Circles of his life. By taking the necessary actions to enhance his brain health, it will help him feel better and can change his life. He’ll join tens of thousands of patients at Amen Clinics who have already gone through this process and benefited from it. If you’re struggling, you can change your brain and change your life too.

Anxiety, panic disorders, depression, TBIs, and other brain health conditions 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. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.


  1. I am very interested in dr amens work. It is getting harder to cope

    Comment by Terri Sauls — November 4, 2020 @ 4:22 PM

  2. I live in NJ. Where are you located? I have suffered from anxiety and depression for years. This has also lead to substance abuse. Can you help me?

    Comment by Geoffrey Handel — November 4, 2020 @ 4:22 PM

  3. I have been interested in brain health for a long time although I don’t believe Medicare will pay for anything supporting this . Please let me know

    Comment by Rosalyn Taltoan — November 4, 2020 @ 4:43 PM

  4. What was the Spect’s role in the treatment? All treatments mentioned can benefit anyone and are not specific to which part of the brain has too much or too little activity.

    Comment by Sima B. — November 4, 2020 @ 4:44 PM

  5. I had a brain injury 20 years ago I had a brain tumor removed. It was Benign. I have 45 years of sobriety and I am 70 years old yet I have been depressed since then. I take a ani-depressant Effexor 225 mg now for 20 years but the last few years doesn’t work as well. I really need a brain scan I have an MRI every year just had one in February to see if the tumor returned. Need someone to call Thanks Linda Cook

    Comment by Linda Cook — November 4, 2020 @ 4:51 PM



    “Semper Fidelis” is more than a slogan for U.S. Marines
    “Always Faithful” is a way of life”

    Comment by OLIVER — November 4, 2020 @ 5:21 PM

  7. Hello Terri, Geoffrey, Rosalyn, Sima and Linda,

    Thank you for sharing your personal experience with what’s going on with your mental health. i feel one with you as i have depression, too. It’s one after giving birth to a healthy 9.1 lb baby by C -section. It wasn’t treated as i wasn’t aware of it. Back in my home country this wasn’t something that mothers or families paid attention to such illness after giving birth. i forgot the scientific name of such type of depression . Is it post -natal syndrome? Dr. Amen mentioned the 4 Circles. And one of them is Spiritual. It’s not about religion. It’s about the spiritual part of being human. We’re not just body or physical but also spiritual human beings. This really help me whenever i allow myself to have an intimate relationship with my Creator who created my whole being. -inside and out, all the goodness and all the warts i have. Once i keep this at bay whenever depression sets in, i simply pray and ask God to heal me. He is a God of Healing. He only wants us to enjoy life along with doctors i.e Dr. Amen who also is His instrument for our healing. With prayers every thing is possible . Please allow me to suggest if you also add in your life to develop the spiritual part of you. Remember it’s not about religion it’s all about who we are as Children of God in Jesus Christ. Try it. You have nothing to lose. The only way to communicate with God for healing is Prayer. Make it simple -one from the heart . …”Jesus help me and heal me.” That’s it. He hears you and I .He’s always listens to His Children in Jesus Christ who loves you and I. He wants you to be healthy and happy in life. Please pray for me ,too. Someone told me this and i like to share this to you all: “Christianity meant not to be a religion but a Relationship – an intimacy with God through Jesus Christ. ” Take care. Love you as God’s Children.

    Comment by Rosemary i. Ferrer — November 4, 2020 @ 5:59 PM

  8. Thaank you for caring for this young man. I watched the entire show, and , it was so sad, for Cameron, and for his parents. I sure hope that he starts to show some improvement, and be encouraged. He has been through so much in his young life. Hopefully he will not fall between the cracks , but will gain his brain health back again. Please keep us updated about his progress.

    Comment by kim pritula — November 4, 2020 @ 6:01 PM

  9. I live in Toronto, Canada and I would love to get help from your clinic. Is there any way to get your help even though I am this far away. Thank you!

    Comment by Jacob O'Brien — November 4, 2020 @ 6:36 PM

  10. I saw Dr. Daniel on a TED talk a few years ago, in a group therapy class. I’ve wanted to pursue his kind of therapy since. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get some Drs. To listen and take me seriously to refer for a brain scan/neurology. I’ve been thru childhood abuse & different episodes of DV throughout my life & very well could have some minor brain traumas, beyond the obvious CPTSD , ADD, & personality disorder. I truly also believe those traumas are linked to my Lupus/fibro diagnosis and could possibly get relief from his types of therapies. Since I can’t afford it get to you DOC. I bought one of your books to hopefully get me started! We’ll see!

    Comment by Rachel Lifto — November 4, 2020 @ 8:42 PM

  11. My grandson threw himself into the path of a bart train thAnkfully he did survive. He has had terrible brain damage to the right front of his head. He s stopped taking his meds and is really angry with his mom. Won’t go back to kaiser psych ward. How can I help him? So sad. So angry. I m his grand mother.

    Comment by Janet English — November 4, 2020 @ 8:48 PM

  12. Tried to get help at the Amen clinic in VA, but the doctor canceled my time, never made a report of scan indications and finally 10 mos later got a refund. I tried many times to move forward with another Dr. but they never scheduled. Feels like a betrayal which added to my PTSD & post concussive tbi brain dysfunction. Now on more meds than before. Good luck to all of you and Cameron. I wish there was another clinic nearby to try since I’m still seeking recovery too and had high hopes for Amen Clinic.

    Comment by Teri — November 4, 2020 @ 9:01 PM

  13. My son suffers from ADD, anxiety, negative thoughts and struggles day to day. How much does a brain scan cost and is it ever covered by insurance? I feel like there are solutions but we don’t know what they are.

    Comment by Annette Kubishta — November 4, 2020 @ 11:37 PM

  14. I am very interested in receiving information I’m suffering with bilateral vision loss and brain swelling

    Comment by Kevin Broadfoot — November 4, 2020 @ 11:39 PM

  15. My daughter 29 now was thrown off a horse hit the back of her head at 8 yrs old ..Hotrible no one cscanned her head for trauma
    Broke her elbow away and had pins
    But she after that accident had seizures and would black out 12 midnite to 4 am months years
    No doctor could or had the expert skills like now meeting Dr Amen through his sister in law Tamara 15 yrs later
    This is God
    I’m praying financially I can as a single parent now get my Daighter a Scan at Amen clinics
    She to got into substance abuse at 16-21 yrs old and other huge stories of homelessness and horrible things
    God bless you helping Cameron
    Dana Finley

    Comment by Dana Finley — November 5, 2020 @ 2:30 AM

  16. Dr. Amen, although we’ve never met, I wanted to share a lil. something with you…YOU ARE AMAZING! What a NOBLE profession because You REALLY care. I enjoy your reads as well. I’ve been suffering with many mental health issues since 20, mainly Bipolar. Schizophrenia runs on both sides of my family so I am Blessed not to have that. I try to look on the brighter side because it can always be worse. I don’t look at a glass half full or empty. I am just glad to have a glass 😉 Conversely, on my down days which are more often than up, I ask God, why? The pain is unbearable at times. Look, we all have our own struggles. I hope one day mental illness will be prioritized so the stigma can end hence all of these young souls are dying because they want that numbness & escape. I thank God I found an awesome psychiatrist almost 14 yrs. ago who “gets” it. Thank you Dr. Amen for being You! And thanks to Dr. Phill for making it available for people to see. I’ve learned 3 things. One, no sanity, no nothing. Two, health is wealth. Third, Know Jesus, Know Peace/No Jesus, No Peace. Jesus rocks! He does it for me. He saved my soul. God bless you!!!!!!

    Comment by Diana Epstein — November 5, 2020 @ 3:44 AM

  17. My best friend died by his own hand on September 17, 2019, after more than 30 years of addiction to prescribed benzoiazepenes . He was only 55. His struggle was both long and heartbreaking for me as well as his family. He tried, I tried, and the various doctors in his life tried, over the last 3 decades of his life…to ease his pain and extreme anxiety. We all failed him. In the end, he did as he had planned, for months….and while I was there visiting him, he took an electrical cord and successfully suffocated himself while I was sleeping.
    When I found him, cold and gone it was unspeakable…he had lied to me, he had betrayed us both, and he had left his life, and all who loved him.
    Why? I will tell you why. …simple…head trauma. …it all makes sense now, almost 14 months after his untimely death. …and I only wish I had really understood then what had happened to his brain.
    As a young child, perhaps 8 years of age, not exactly sure, as his family “can’t remember” when this happened, he fell backward from his back porch railing , onto hard packed ground below. He was knocked unconscious for “several hours” , according to his elder brother. He told me, at the funeral for his younger brothr that they had laid him on the kitchen floor, and when he came to , he was violently ill….and probably not himself for a time after that.
    At NO time did his parents call a doctor , or take him to the hospital. They were Italian immigrants, and had no sense of the seriousness of his injury, then. He seemed to recover, and life went on.
    He was a very bright, precocious child, academically gifted, living in a small city, with his parents and 2 older brothers. He successfully completed high school, and was popular, as well as athletic..playing both football and tennis in high school. He was “restless” and impulsive, as I have learned….and became sexually active at 19 while in college. His view of women soon became one of “predator and prey”..and they all became a succession of ‘easy conquests”. He seemed to have it all, movie star looks, high intelligence, and anyh woman he could possibly want.
    It soon became apparent as he entered his 20s that something else was going on…he became anxious…had great difficulty sleeping….and it was at this time, while working an overnight job, that he was prescribed his first dose of Klonopin, or clonazepam as he always called it. This was in 1988, as I now know. Hid family doctor kept on refilling this prescription, without missing a beat , for 20 years, until he moved to anothter city for his “mental health”. By this time he had seen 2 psychiatrists and was also on other drugs, like lithuum, and then Celexa, and had the diagnosis of “Bi=Polar” disorder. Through all of this, the benzos continued. …without missing a beat.
    It was not until a new doctor in his new city told him , in 2015 that he could NOT prescribe this drug any longer…and he was absolutely STUNNED. He kept this to himself for 3 years, and then finally began to hint to me in early 2019 that he was “tapering off” this drug…and finally confessed to me later in the spring that this doctor had “cut him off”…no offer of any other help, by the way..so I began to urge him to “go for help.’ which he refused adamantly to do. I was finally able to get down to see him in July, and by then his plan had been hatched. He knew he was living on borrowed time. I did not…I knew nothing, but soon began to see the cracks, and the shocking change in his appearance. He had lost at least 20 lb, and his appetite was sporadic. We went to his doctor to see what was going on, and that is when I heard the story about the benzos being stopped. I learned then , too, that this is an “anti-anxiety “drug that is for “temporary “use only…!! Awesome. ..he was given a highly addictive drug, and was on it for 31 years, until the morning he took his own life. He was unsuccessful in :weaning” , primarily because he had misinformation from a young psychiatrist he was sent to see…who knew that he was already tapering off the klonopin, and who went ahead and added 2 new drugs for him to take while he was withdrawing from the benzodiazepene….absolutely a death sentence for him. He should have been hospitalized, placed in an induced coman and weaned this way off that deadly drug. I know this now, from having watched Lisa LIng’s show on “This is Lfe” which aired in October of 2019, 3 weeks after his death. Her own father had been prescribed benzos, and as a result had become addicted and then hospitalized as a result. He was 82, and this drug nearly kiled him. She explained the deadly effects of these highly addictive drugs, and made it very clear to me as to what happened to my friend.
    The system let him down. ..and he died. On every level , he was abandoned and left to suffer , all because he had brain trauma as a child , and was never given a brain scan.
    When I urged him to demand an MRI, he said to me “Rachel,, they won’t do that form me”… so I was blocked as well…and because I wasn’t his wife, I could not get anyone’s attention.
    He successfully ended his life and is now gone, far too soon. I loved him, and cared for him…and that was not always easy. He alienated many people , because of his altered reality, and his own inner demons.
    I lost someone very special, and dear to me. He looked after me when I was very ill, and promised that he would never kill himself. He had great contempt for this…and yet, in the end this was how he left.
    Now I am alone, and my future is also a blank slate. I am doing the best I can, without him…He was so smart, and so unique…but he was human..and his brain betrayed him….
    So did the medical community.
    These benzodiazepenes are lethal weapons, and should be outlawed. They “change your brain”…I saw this, up close and personal. It was ugly. and it was avoidable. He displayed symptoms of extreme PTSD, as I realize it now….how very tragic…for all of us, including his 2 brothers, and his 92 year old mother who must go on without him.
    He was a shining light …so spontaneous, so funny, so smart, so caring, and now, so dead.
    I have his voice on my answering machine, and I have pictures…and few of his favorite cds…Eddie Van Halen, Ozzie Osbourne and Black Sabbath….and my memoires.
    Rest in peace, John Paul Benincasa
    April 26, 1964 ………..September 17, 2019
    Thanks you for this opportunity to tell his story.
    I hope it helps someone else in time….get help, no matter what else you do…it could make a difference.

    Comment by Rachel Bailie — November 5, 2020 @ 4:33 AM

  18. Hello Kevin, our Care Coordinators will reach out to you directly. Thank you.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — November 5, 2020 @ 8:34 AM

  19. Hello Annette, thank you for reaching out. Our Care Coordinators will reach out to you directly. The price of SPECT scans varies, as we offer many different types of evaluations that include one or two scans. Additionally, we offer many different types of holistic and alternative treatments (https://amenclinics.com/services/). Amen Clinics is an out-of-network provider, but we are able to provide assistance with possible insurance reimbursement. We also offer financing options through Care Credit. We look forward to speaking with you.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — November 5, 2020 @ 8:37 AM

  20. Hello Teri, thank you for reaching out. We are sorry you are still unhappy despite our efforts to address your concerns. If you’d like to discuss further, please follow up with our Clinic Director at 703-880-4000. We are here for you and are happy to help you get the care you are looking for.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — November 5, 2020 @ 8:40 AM

  21. Hello Janet, thank you for reaching out and for sharing with us. We will have our Care Coordinators reach out to you directly with information about our services. We do have a program that addresses head trauma, traumatic brain injury, and concussions (https://amenclinics.com/services/concussion-rescue-program/) and it’s based on a book written by one of our specialists (https://brainmd.com/concussion-rescue-book). We look forward to speaking with you.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — November 5, 2020 @ 8:56 AM

  22. Hello Jacob, thank you for reaching out. We will have our Care Coordinators contact you directly with resources and possible referrals sources if you’re unable to travel to one of our 8 clinic locations (https://amenclinics.com/locations/). We look forward to speaking with you.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — November 5, 2020 @ 10:09 AM

  23. Hello Linda, thank you for reaching out and sharing with us. We will have our Care Coordinators contact you directly to provide information and resources. We look forward to speaking with you.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — November 5, 2020 @ 10:09 AM

  24. Hello Rosalyn, thank you for reaching out. We are out-of-network and don’t accept Medicare. We do work with our patients to receive possible insurance reimbursement, and we offer financing options as well. We’d be happy to contact you directly with more information. We look forward to speaking with you.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — November 5, 2020 @ 10:11 AM

  25. Hello Geoffrey, thank you for reaching out. At this time we have 8 locations (https://amenclinics.com/locations/). For more information, you can reach us here: https://amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/. We’d be happy to reach out to you directly, we look forward to speaking with you.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — November 5, 2020 @ 10:12 AM

  26. I had my SPECT scans at the Amen Clinic in Chicago. Seeing the evidence was eye opening! I’ve followed their advice- better diet, CPAP for good sleep hygiene, yoga and the supplements they recommended. The doctor explained why the specific nutrient was needed in my brain. The experience gave me hope that my mood disorder won’t continue to run my life. Thankful for Dr. Amen’s pioneering work.

    Comment by Laura O — November 5, 2020 @ 11:49 AM

  27. When I was around 2 years old, my father threw me up in the air and did not catch me. I landed on my head.
    I’ve had a few head injuries , been sexually abused from a tiny girl until my early teens, and been physically and emotionally abused and bullied for most of my entire life. If I ever along the way tried to stand up for myself, I was told how selfish I was and how no one else would ever love me, no one liked me…etc. Usual drivel from bullies and abusers

    Comment by K — November 5, 2020 @ 1:19 PM

  28. Hi Amen Clinic, in response to your comment above “despite our efforts to address your concerns,” this is not the appropriate place for a dialogue, but my I had called the VA clinic director many times before being told I would be refunded. There was no other effort to address my concerns. I’d be happy to have a private conversation with someone above the local clinic director and you have my email. Thank you. And, I do wish all of the people seeking help in this thread to find healing, relief, and more enjoyable lives. Spending time in doctors offices or in suffering doesn’t compare to spending time on elective activities. Take care and stay positive!

    Comment by Teri — November 5, 2020 @ 6:52 PM

  29. Hello Teri, thanks for your response. We’d like to learn more about what we could have done differently and how we may still be able to help. We will be reaching out to you. All the best and thank you for your feedback.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — November 6, 2020 @ 1:06 PM

  30. We are very interested in the Spect, but before spending the money, I would like to know how the results of Spects dictates the recommendation? From Cameron’s story, the recommendations were all beneficial to anyone with Psychiatric issues whether due to an injury, or too slow or too fast blood/ogygen flow in any part of the brain.
    Thank you.

    Comment by Sima B. — November 6, 2020 @ 1:39 PM

  31. Hello Teri, glad we were able to work things out. Looking forward to serving you!

    Comment by Amen Clinics — November 12, 2020 @ 2:03 PM

  32. PLEASE HELP ME! I wrote a letter to Dr. Amen asking for help and included a history of all my health issues – I am blessed greatly by God but have no clue why I have been saved from clutches of death 4 times in my life. I am 74 years of age and suffered head trauma in auto accident in 1976 plus have brain aneurysm which doctors of Swedish Brain and Spine institute of Denver, CO said was large and troublesome, headaches 24 x 7 since accident of 1976, had open heart surgery for a tumor inside my heart that had grown to fill one upper chamber of my heart inside my heart and was attempting to grow into the other upper chamber. I had a severe stroke in 2017 and had much brain damage from stroke – (doctors at hospital said damage was size of my fist. I was temerarily paralyzed from neck down. I have not recovered fully recovered. I also suffer from Clinical depression. I suffered vision loss, hearing loss, my diaphram was damaged , my equilibrium is off, my left side is weak and at random times quits working. I can no longer ride my bicycle. I had to sell my Softail Deluxe Harley motorcycle – I can no longer ride it. I am on social security and have limited funds but need major help.

    Comment by Francesca Trevino — November 17, 2020 @ 9:17 PM

  33. Was this the episode with Cameron where he was “muffing” his partner’s face?
    If it is then why did Dr Phil allow the non existent word “muffing” to be used by Cameron and the girl he physically abused?
    Why did Dr Phil then call it “muffing” himself instead of correcting the term and calling it what it is? It is correctly called ‘shoving a woman in the face’. That is physical abuse and should NEVER be allowed to be softened by a fluffy substituted made up word to make it sound somehow harmless. I would have thought any person who works in mental health would know that

    Comment by Kathy — May 3, 2022 @ 7:45 PM

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