How Does SPECT Differ from Other Brain Scans?

How Does SPECT Differ from Other Brain Scans?

Are you struggling with depression, anxiety, PTSD, or another mental health condition and wondering if brain imaging might be helpful for you? Brain SPECT scans can be beneficial in many ways for people with psychiatric symptoms, especially compared with other types of brain imaging. Here’s a quick look at how SPECT differs from other types of brain imaging.


What is it?

Single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) is a nuclear medicine study that measures blood flow and activity in the brain. 

What does it show?

SPECT shows how the brain functions and reveals areas of the brain with healthy activity, too much activity, or too little activity. SPECT is commonly used in medical settings to evaluate brain trauma, dementia, and cerebral vascular disease, and also for epilepsy patients undergoing surgery. Based on findings from the world’s largest database of functional brain scans related to behavior,  SPECT has also shown to be useful in evaluating the subtypes of ADD/ADHD, depression, and anxiety; substance abuse; exposure to toxins; violence; and complex mental health problems, or treatment-resistant psychiatric issues. Among SPECT’s many benefits, it averages brain activity levels over a few minutes, making it ideal for evaluating brain function during everyday activities, such as concentrating, meditating, reading.

Some of the additional ways SPECT can help include:

  • Decreasing shame and stigma
  • Improving compliance
  • Breaking denial
  • Helping prevent treatment mistakes
  • Offering hope that you can change your brain


What is it?

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to view parts of the brain.

What does it show?

The 3-D pictures produced can show problems in the anatomical structure of the brain or brain stem, such as tumors, cysts, blood vessel problems, inflammation, swelling, or infections. MRI does not give any information on brain function, which limits its effectiveness in providing useful information on conditions involving behavior or emotions. In addition, MRI scanners can feel claustrophobic and are very noisy, which causes anxiety for some people.


What is it?

Functional MRI, or fMRI, is a type of MRI that measures blood flow and brain activity. The fMRI is a very expensive tool that has become popular for scientific research but is not as commonly used in clinical settings.

What does it show?

fMRI shows neural activity in real-time, showing how the brain responds to various stimuli. Like an MRI, the procedure can be uncomfortable and loud and can make people feel anxious.


What is it?

PET (positron emission tomography) is a nuclear imaging technology that is similar to SPECT in that it is a functional brain scan, but it is more costly.

What does it show?

Like SPECT, PET scans allow healthcare professionals to view how the brain functions. PET measures blood flow and glucose metabolism in the brain. PET scans are often used to check for cancerous tumors or to see if cancer elsewhere in the body has spread to the brain. They are also used to investigate epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, and other dementias, traumatic brain injuries, and movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.

Amen Clinics has the world’s largest database of functional brain scans related to emotional, behavioral, and learning issues and utilizes brain SPECT imaging as part of a comprehensive evaluation. SPECT scans allow us to more accurately diagnose and more effectively treat our patients.

Learn more about how a brain scan could help you overcome conditions such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury by calling 888-288-9834 or schedule a visit.

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  1. Amy says:


    I want to know how I can help my husband who had a brain injury as an infant and is now 58 years old. For the 38 years we’ve been married, he has become increasingly more hostile angry outbursts in his behavior. I don’t know what to do. We live in Maine and I would like to have him have a spect test but we don’t have the financial resources to pay for it. Is there any way he could be seen by a dr without having the test and put on medication to help?
    He is on a antidepressant but it doesn’t seem to be working.
    Please direct me to some help as I am desperate to have things get better.

    Thank you


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