“How Can You Know Yourself If You Don’t Know Your Brain?”

Trent Shelton

Are you interested in self-awareness, personal growth, and self-improvement? Don’t we all want greater insights into what makes us tick, so we can become the best version of ourselves? Trent Shelton does. The former pro football player who now inspires millions with his books, motivational speaking, and podcast—has been on a journey of self-exploration and personal development ever since his football career ended prematurely after suffering a concussion. In the decade since then, he has looked inward to better his life and encouraged others to look inside themselves to enhance their lives. But after all that reflection, there was one thing Shelton still hadn’t seen—his brain.

“How can you know yourself if you don’t know your brain?”

That’s the rhetorical question Shelton asked Dr. Daniel Amen when he visited Amen Clinics to get a brain SPECT scan as part of the Scan My Brain video series. Shelton was curious about a few issues he was experiencing—short-term memory problems, social anxiety, and focus. “I’m a last-minute person,” he admitted with a laugh. He also wanted to take the opportunity to share his brain scan experience with his followers as a way to educate and encourage them.

“How can you know yourself if you don’t know your brain?” — Trent Shelton, former pro football player and founder of Rehab Time, upon seeing his brain SPECT scan at Amen Clinics Click To Tweet


The former football player’s brain scans provided clues to his concerns. The scans showed signs of previous brain trauma, likely due to the multiple big hits and blows to the head he took as a wide receiver in college and the NFL.

Another finding on his brain scans? Decreased blood flow in the prefrontal cortex, which may also be related to those concussions. This pattern is commonly seen in people who tend to procrastinate, miss deadlines, or be late. Individuals with this brain pattern often need a little bit of stress to get motivated to get ready, such as a spouse telling you in no uncertain terms that you’re going to be late. This helped Shelton understand why he’s a last-minute kind of person and how he could benefit from simple ways to boost focus.

Shelton had been prepared to see brain trauma due to all those football-related head injuries he’d suffered. What he didn’t expect to see was low activity in the cerebellum, an area involved in processing speed and coordination. As a professional athlete who continues to be active with hiking and HIIT training, he’s highly coordinated. Dr. Amen recommended taking up a racquet sport—such as tennis, table tennis, or pickleball—to help activate the cerebellum and the frontal lobes. These sports require the brain to coordinate hands and feet while calculating spins and choosing shots. Think of it as aerobic chess for the brain. Another bonus of picking up a racquet? A 2018 study in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings shows that people who play racquet sports live longer.

Perhaps most surprising to Shelton was the overactivity in his emotional brain. Most people intuitively understand how a concussion can harm the brain, but few of us realize that emotional trauma can inflame the emotional centers of the brain, which is associated with an increased risk of anxiety and depression. In the past, Shelton lost a friend to suicide, and he recently grieved the death of his mother. As Dr. Amen explained, something called ancestral trauma can also be passed down from your parents or grandparents. For example, Shelton’s dad was robbed at gunpoint and shot at. Experiences such as this can alter the genes in a person’s offspring, pre-loading them with generational trauma.

Just because a person inherits ancestral trauma, it’s still possible to offset that genetic coding. For example, Dr. Amen suggested that whenever Shelton is feeling anxious that he writes down what he’s thinking and challenges the thought. Practicing this kind of mental hygiene can help turn off—or at least tone down—those genes.

How Seeing the Brain Changes Your Mindset

For Shelton, seeing his brain ushered him into a whole new level of personal growth that increased his understanding. “I’m connecting the dots,” he said. “I don’t feel like there’s something wrong with me, with the thoughts that I think, or how I felt in the past. I’m seeing my brain and understanding, okay, this is why. So, it just helps me put 2 and 2 together.”

Shelton is one among tens of thousands of people who have visited Amen Clinics for a SPECT scan to better understand their emotional, cognitive, and behavioral issues. In general, with that understanding comes greater self-awareness as well as a stronger commitment to enhancing brain function. And with a better brain comes a better life.

As Shelton learned, no self-exploration journey is complete without a view inside the brain.

No self-exploration journey is complete without a view inside the brain. Click To Tweet

Anxiety, focus problems, emotional trauma, 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. Yes

    Comment by John Thallmayer — August 30, 2021 @ 5:54 AM

  2. If you keep your head in the sand, eventually the ANTs will get to you?

    Comment by Matthew Hanson — August 30, 2021 @ 11:22 AM

  3. I have PTSD from a kidnapping and beating and sexual assault and left for died . I also have ADD and having trouble focusing and clarity with short term memory

    Comment by Tamela — August 31, 2021 @ 8:04 AM

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