Emotional Trauma and the “Diamond Brain”

Diamond Brain

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, as the saying goes. Not in the case of your brain. A diamond-shaped pattern of overactivity in the brain’s emotional centers is actually a sign of trouble. On brain SPECT imaging scans, the diamond pattern is associated with emotional trauma that has pushed the brain into overdrive.

The diamond pattern is one of the findings noted on the brain scans of Rachel Hollis, entrepreneur and author of the bestselling Girl, Wash Your Face and Girl, Stop Apologizing. She recently sat down with Dr. Daniel Amen for an episode of the Scan My Brain video series to discuss her SPECT scan at Amen Clinics. When he asked Hollis about past emotional trauma, she revealed a horrific experience with her brother who had schizophrenia and depression.

“When I was 14, my brother committed suicide,” says Hollis, who found his lifeless body in their home. “I couldn’t understand what I was looking at. My brain could not process what I was looking at.”

Extreme emotional trauma like this can contribute to the diamond brain pattern.

A diamond-shaped pattern of overactivity in the brain’s emotional centers is actually a sign of trouble. On brain SPECT imaging scans, the diamond pattern is associated with emotional trauma that has pushed the brain into overdrive. Click To Tweet


Amen Clinics has conducted several brain SPECT imaging studies on trauma survivors, including a 2015 study in Plos One, and the scans show significantly increased activity in the limbic, or emotional, areas in a pattern that looks like a diamond. The affected brain areas are:

  • Anterior cingulate gyrus: This region is the brain’s gear shifter and helps you go from one thought to another. Too much activity here is associated with a fixation on negative thoughts or behaviors
  • Basal ganglia and amygdala: These are the brain’s anxiety and fear centers, and overactivity is linked to heightened anxiousness and predicting the worst.
  • Thalamus: The thalamus acts as a sort of relay station for the brain, and increased activity in this region heightens sensory awareness.

In some people, the right lateral temporal lobe is also overactive. This area of the brain is involved in reading the intentions of other people. When activity here is excessive, people can misread cues from others.

Healthy “Active” Brain SPECT Scan              

The most active areas are in the cerebellum at the back of the brain.


Diamond Pattern SPECT Scan

Diamond pattern shows increased activity in the anterior cingulate (top of diamond), basal ganglia/amygdala (middle), and thalamus (bottom).


Problems commonly seen in people who have suffered emotional trauma and who have the diamond brain pattern include:

For Hollis, it’s as if her emotional brain is on fire. “I have a really hard time controlling my emotions,” she says. “It’s affecting my ability to be productive and to do my work well and to be the kind of mom I want to be and the kind of human I want to be.”


Whenever you go through emotional trauma or grief it can leave a lasting imprint on the brain, as is seen with the diamond pattern. In order to properly heal the brain, it is critical to get the right diagnosis.

Symptoms of PTSD (emotional trauma) often overlap with those seen in traumatic brain injuries (physical trauma), such as anxiety, depression, irritability, headaches, and insomnia. Although the symptoms are the same, the treatments for these conditions are very different. In fact, treating PTSD as if it were a TBI or vice versa can actually make people worse.

This is why neuroimaging studies are so important if conventional treatments for your symptoms are ineffective. In 2015, Amen Clinics published 2 studies in Brain Imaging and Behavior and Plos One on more than 21,000 patients, including veterans, demonstrating that SPECT can distinguish between PTSD and TBI with high levels of accuracy.

In addition, grief is often mislabeled as depression, PTSD, ADD/ADHD, panic disorder, and other psychiatric conditions. If grief is misdiagnosed, psychotropic medications can get in the way of or even prolong recovery.


Even if emotional trauma has contributed to overactivity in the brain in a diamond pattern, there is hope for healing. One powerful psychological treatment that can help people overcome emotional trauma is called EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing). This non-invasive therapy is based on research suggesting that experiencing trauma can change the way the brain processes information, causing events to get “stuck” in the brain’s processing center. EMDR is designed to eliminate the emotional charges associated with traumatic memories.

Scientific studies show that EMDR therapy can be beneficial for trauma survivors and that it can work more quickly than traditional psychotherapy. A 2014 review of studies found that 3 sessions of EMDR therapy led to relief from PTSD symptoms in 84%-90% of individuals who had experienced a single traumatic event.

The positive effects of EMDR can be amplified when combined with other therapies, such as trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, and lifestyle changes that help calm an overactive brain.

Emotional trauma, PTSD, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.


  1. Interesting. This describes someone close to me. But what do you do with someone who doesn’t want to heal their brain? He considers the entire problem to be the world at large, rather than anything within himself. Occasionally, he will admit he has issues but still feels that he manages well and that it’s everyone else who is “wrong.”

    Comment by Leila — November 11, 2021 @ 3:11 AM

  2. i found out about 15 yrs ago, after some tmj work with a dentist, that an early memory i had as a child of cracking the back of my head from the crown down the left side, whilst upswinging on the washing line, left me with an understanding that at the age of 2 my sphenoid was twisted by the accident.
    as the sphenoid is sited from temple to temple, across the back of the eyes, the lowest part is attached to a muscle that is attached to the voice box.
    at the front of sphenoid lies the pituitary gland and i think mine was impeded by the accident because i had little cranio-facial development and a retarded feminity
    i have never felt able to defend myself, orally or physically – i have no balance – in all sorts of ways – and so became a recluse – symptoms above i know so well
    i have been attempting to use both dental and energetic ways to alter the way that my head sits on my shoulders and to stretch the muscles that allow the info go from body to head and back to body
    incidentally my physical body developed ovarian cancer at 47yrs – retarded sexual development – ratarded system!!!
    life can be so interesting and its all about me – my favourite subject hahahaha

    Comment by penny waters — November 17, 2021 @ 1:54 AM

  3. forget to say – because i find it difficult to respond to the outside – blocked energy from physical damage – i have encountered trauma from everyone i meet who is traumatised and who gives it out instead of holding on as i do, because i
    feel like i have a responsibility to defend myself

    Comment by penny waters — November 17, 2021 @ 1:59 AM

  4. Everything is very open with a very clear clarification of the challenges.
    It was truly informative. Your website is very helpful.
    Thanks for sharing!

    Comment by miracle box for technology — December 8, 2023 @ 8:02 AM

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