Landmark Endorsement for Brain SPECT Imaging in Psychiatry

brain SPECT imaging

In a landmark decision in May 2021, the Canadian Association of Nuclear Medicine (CANM) unanimously adopted new procedure guidelines for brain single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) imaging for psychiatry and neurology. The prestigious scientific body endorsed brain SPECT imaging for the assessment of many common issues affecting tens of millions of people, including:

CANM emphasized that as with all other forms of imaging studies, SPECT must be used in conjunction with clinical information and judgment.

Historic news! The Canadian Association of Nuclear Medicine (CANM) has unanimously endorsed brain SPECT imaging for the assessment of ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression, OCD, PTSD, Alzheimer’s disease, TBI, substance abuse, and more. Click To Tweet

WHAT IS SPECT?

SPECT is a nuclear imaging study 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 too much activity
  • Areas of the brain with too little activity

SPECT is different from other brain imaging studies, such as MRI and CT, which are anatomical scans that look at the structure of the brain. SPECT looks at how the brain functions, which is more helpful for neuropsychiatric issues.

SPECT first emerged in clinical use in the late 1980s as a way to assess dementia, brain injuries, seizures, and strokes. Despite a growing body of scientific evidence over the past three decades showing that SPECT can provide valuable information related to a wide variety of conditions, traditional psychiatry has been resistant to using it in the clinical setting. Psychiatric organizations, such as the American Psychiatric Association (APA), suggested the imaging technology was useful for research but not yet ready for clinical practice. As a result, psychiatry remains the only medical specialty that rarely looks at the organ it treats.

AMEN CLINICS: A PIONEER IN THE USE OF SPECT IN CLINICAL PSYCHIATRY

Daniel G. Amen, MD, founder of Amen Clinics, has been using SPECT in clinical psychiatric practice for 30 years. “When I first started to use SPECT, I felt it made me a better doctor. A 44-year-old patient was in denial about his alcohol and cocaine abuse. After seeing the ‘toxic’ pattern on his scan he completely stopped the substances. A 16-year-old teen was depressed, aggressive, and impulsive. She had seen multiple psychiatrists before getting a scan, which clearly showed a traumatic brain injury pattern. On further questioning, she remembered a bad fall from her bike a month before her symptoms began. On appropriate treatment she did much better,” Amen says.

In the early 1990s, the APA and clinical psychiatrists showed increasing interest in the potential of SPECT and related neuroimaging tools. A paper in The American Journal of Psychiatry detailed how the APA once gave all-day courses on SPECT but subsequently dismissed the use of SPECT and related neuroimaging because it did not match their diagnostic bible (the DSM, which it owns and profits from). Academic psychiatrists and the APA eventually argued against using scans alone as a diagnostic tool.

According to Amen, “My colleagues missed the point of imaging. SPECT scans add important information that physicians could not get from talking to patients. Getting some biological data on patients, even if imperfect, was better than getting no information at all. Researchers from Creighton University found that having a SPECT scan on admission cut hospital stays for bipolar teenagers by more than half.”

A psychiatrist, neuroscientist, and bestselling author, Amen adds, “Experienced clinicians can tell if someone is likely to have ADHD, OCD, or bipolar disorder without the benefit of these tools. But what clinicians cannot do, and will never be able to do, without functional brain imaging is to know the underlying brain biology of the patients they treat.”

Without functional brain imaging, a psychiatrist cannot tell if inattention, depression, or aggression is from:

  • Low blood flow from vascular disease
  • A premature aging process
  • An inflammatory process, related to low omega-3 fatty acids or gut problems
  • A genetic abnormality
  • Lasting physical trauma from playing football in high school
  • Toxic exposure from carbon monoxide or mold exposure, which needs to be treated
  • Seizure activity
  • A brain infection
  • Nutrient or neurohormone abnormalities
  • Blood sugar abnormalities
  • Undiagnosed sleep apnea
  • A brain that is working too hard and needs to be calmed down
  • A brain that is not working hard enough and needs to be stimulated

A NEW FUTURE OF PSYCHIATRY WITH BRAIN SPECT IMAGING

In light of CANM’s breakthrough endorsement, brain SPECT imaging is likely to gain wider acceptance in the field of psychiatry, especially in complex conditions or treatment-resistant patients. Assessing underlying brain function in these cases can be very valuable in finding the right treatment plan. If you don’t get the right diagnosis, you won’t get the right treatment.

“Functional brain imaging with SPECT takes psychiatry from a generalized symptom-cluster diagnostic and treatment specialty without any biological evidence to a more objective specialty, one that is solidly based on using state-of-the-art brain mapping tools to help optimize the patient’s brain function,” Amen says.

The psychiatrist adds, “It’s my hope that tools like SPECT will help us stop using the term ‘mental illness,’ which increases shame and stigma, and call these issues what they really are—brain health issues that steal people’s minds. Get your brain right and your mind will follow.”

When you or a loved one are not responding to traditional treatment for depression, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar disorder, or other mental health issues, brain SPECT imaging can help. Seeing is believing and learning about any areas of brain dysfunction can be critical in getting an accurate diagnosis and the most effective and targeted treatment plan.

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.

42 Comments

  1. GREAT News! Congratulations
    Dave Razo

    Comment by Dave Razo — July 16, 2021 @ 3:08 AM

  2. This is really good news. Finally, the “conventional” psychiatrists will have some more support that looking at the organ they treat can be crucial for treatment success. I’ve been following Dr. Daniel Amen and the Amen clinics for years and am happy to see that finally “regular” psychiatry is ready to adopt a better way to help people suffering from “mental health” = brain health issues.
    I sometimes wish, that when I struggled with severe depression and psychosis over 20 years ago, I could have had a SPECT scan. I think my struggles would have ended sooner and it would have been much easier for me to overcome them, saving me thousands of dollars in meds, therapists, years of time spent on meds that had serious side effects, on trying different things, doing research and trying other things…
    Realizing that it is my life – and my responsibility to change it for the better (and giving up the “victim” – thinking – “It’s a lifelong condition” – “nothing you can do about it” – “get used to your new normal” “you will be on these meds for the rest of your life”) was a major step in my transformation.
    I am proud to say that changing my brain with Dr. Amen’s methods worked well for me and I am now able to spread this positive knowledge and the strategies and experience based on its application to as many others as want to hear – and apply it! I am forever grateful to have my life back – it is better than ever. I can truly say I am happy (most days).
    My hope is that my own story and that of many others are encouraging others to follow in our footsteps and see the light at the end of their tunnel, no matter how long they have been in the dark.
    My motto is: “it’s NEVER too late to start living your best life”.
    Thank you, Dr. Amen and team for helping millions to see that it is possible – and a practical way how to do it.

    Comment by Christine Sauer — July 16, 2021 @ 3:52 AM

  3. This is wonderful news! I am sorry this did not happen before my son passed away in January, 2021 at the age of 40 due to chronic misuse of alcohol. He had been diagnosed with mental illness in about 2016. He endured years of depression. He was a gifted, kind, loving person.

    Comment by Patricia Hoffman — July 16, 2021 @ 3:53 AM

  4. Exciting news. Where in Ontario,
    Canada can I get a brain scan?

    Comment by Cindy — July 16, 2021 @ 4:08 AM

  5. Now that Canada has endorsed this treatment when will you be opening a clinic here in Toronto. Believe me it will be packed and with wait lists. It is long over due here and we need your help.

    Comment by Jeanie — July 16, 2021 @ 4:12 AM

  6. How do I make an appt to get a scan and brain check up. Dementia runs in my family.

    Comment by Dan Forsman — July 16, 2021 @ 4:47 AM

  7. I’m
    Located in Canada is this something I can still do ?

    Comment by Lola Simpson — July 16, 2021 @ 4:58 AM

  8. Hi. Im very pleased to see this endorsement. My 47year old son had mental health issues all his adult life compounded by Addisons Disease and acute alcoholism Unfortunately he died 3 months ago while i was out of town and the paramedics didn’t arrive in time to try to resuscitate him.
    Im sure that SPECT imaging would have helped to know what was really wrong with his brain. But living in N Z would have meant it would have been very difficult to access SPECT
    All the best for extra support to show that SPECT imaging would be a huge help with diagnosis and thena more suitable rehab plan.

    Comment by Penny Hunt — July 16, 2021 @ 5:03 AM

  9. Is there a clinic here in Canada that will do SPECT imaging? I’m in ALberta Canada and would love to know so I can go there my self to get scanned and refer my clients there.

    Comment by Karla Weiss — July 16, 2021 @ 5:03 AM

  10. AS A CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST IN NEUROPSYCHOLOGY PRACTICE I ALSO THINK IT’S A WELCOME DEVELOPMENT. THIS IS CLEARLY BOUND TO ASSIST IN SEVERAL NEURO PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSESSMENT OUTCOMES AS MOST TIMES WE FOCUS ON FUNCTIONINGS OF THE INDIVIDUAL MIND AND BRAIN .

    Comment by leonard CHIDOZIE orji — July 16, 2021 @ 5:19 AM

  11. Where can we get SPECT imaging in Canada?

    Comment by Lynne Raven Fahey — July 16, 2021 @ 5:32 AM

  12. Fantastic!! Very good news!

    Comment by Mercedes — July 16, 2021 @ 5:41 AM

  13. Why are you not in Australia??? I have been going to the Radius Medical centre in Brisbane Queensland Australia or 14 years the psychologist there Dr Rick Sapsford is wonderful he has brought me back from the edge many times after committing suicide 3 times before seeing him. I was sexually abused from 11-17 weekly by a swimming coach. I put continued into my working life. I lost the job of my dreams in my late 30’s I have a toxic family . I never married or had children so am now in my 60’s on my own my beautiful dad that I adored and was the only man in my life died 4 years ago and now I have no one
    Kind regards Roslyn

    Comment by Roslyn — July 16, 2021 @ 6:24 AM

  14. I have a daughter that is bipolar manic depressive disorder. Thie began happening to when she started experiencing suicide yhoughts and becamme more and more she is now in her late 40’s. She has meds and she takes them regularly still this issue continues I also have 2 daughters who are alcoholics and 2 gransons with mental health issues. Could this possibly of any help for them? Thank you

    Comment by Virginia Osterman — July 16, 2021 @ 7:00 AM

  15. Who could I contact in Canada to have this done ?

    Comment by Lynn Galbraith — July 16, 2021 @ 7:06 AM

  16. Marvelous ! Thank you Dr. Amen !

    Comment by Lois — July 16, 2021 @ 7:14 AM

  17. Congratulations! Wonderful news!

    Comment by Amy Biewald — July 16, 2021 @ 7:33 AM

  18. Does this mean Canada will begin using Canadian health funds to pay for the service?

    Comment by Holly Jeske — July 16, 2021 @ 7:33 AM

  19. Yay! Finally. Maybe this means a satellite office in Canada. That would be wonderful for us Canadians. Barrie would be perfect. It’s an hour north of Toronto and a half hour from where I live. Lol. I read Healing ADD when my son was diagnosed with ADHD and it helped me so much. Best book I ever read. So helpful. I even gave a copy to my brother, and a copy to a therapist I once knew. Thanks so much Dr. Amen. P.s. just finished your course. Still processing it.

    Comment by Nancy Charbonneau — July 16, 2021 @ 8:14 AM

  20. what can you see for Rare Genetic Disorders, Spineo Cerebeller Atrophy. Ataxia? Movement Disorders. Balance and speech. I will come to your clinic.

    Comment by Elva Sherwood — July 16, 2021 @ 8:36 AM

  21. Where neuropsych testing fails higher functioning people with actual brain injuries this scan would be highly beneficial for them to get the proper treatments. Of course the treatments like HBOT need to be more available and promoted too. It works. But you have to be able to afford it too.

    Comment by Mary B Underwood — July 16, 2021 @ 8:52 AM

  22. About time that someone did this, now for more places recognize what a great help this will be for patients.

    Comment by Julie Dearmond — July 16, 2021 @ 9:14 AM

  23. A question. Will this help me? I have lost my past memory. From stroke?? I don’t know, It is difficult….even had to “meet” my own children

    Comment by Frances Brannon — July 16, 2021 @ 9:14 AM

  24. Hello Dan. Thank you for reaching out. We would be happy to contact you directly with more information regarding getting you an appointment at 1 of our 9 clinics in the US. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — July 16, 2021 @ 9:31 AM

  25. Hi Virginia, thank you for reaching out. We would be happy to contact you directly. Our Care Coordinators could provide you more information on getting your daughters and grandsons into one of our 9 clinics in the US. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — July 16, 2021 @ 9:35 AM

  26. Does this mean a Brain Spect is only accepted in Canada? Will it now be covered by insurance ?

    Comment by Linda Turriff — July 16, 2021 @ 10:09 AM

  27. I have recently been diagnosed with early stage Alzheimers and I think a SPECT would be useful in confirming my diagnosis. Is there a hospital in or near Montreal where I can go to have a SPECT carried out?

    Comment by James P atterson — July 16, 2021 @ 11:45 AM

  28. I have an adult friend who has multiple issues and was just diagnosed with autism. Have you done any research on autism and can the SPECT scan help identify it? He has an automimmune disorder where his body is supercharged, he can’t get ill, but the downside is many foods impact him worse than they do someone with Celiacs. He also had extensive childhood trauma and recently two significant head inuries. He has been considering having a SOPECT scan but is uncertain how it might benefit him.

    Comment by kali miller — July 16, 2021 @ 11:45 AM

  29. I hope you will be able to open several clinics across Canada and keep the costs down for the patients who need it.

    This is a marvelous endorsement, Dr. Amen. Congratulations!

    Comment by Jim Lohr, Ph.D. — July 16, 2021 @ 11:58 AM

  30. Congratulations! Blessings on you, Dr. Amen, and your entire team. The journey has been uphill and you have endured and persisted. And so many, many people have benefited from SPECT as a tool in their battles for a healthy life. Keep up the great work.

    Comment by Dr. Russ Veenker — July 16, 2021 @ 12:32 PM

  31. CONGRATULATIONS!!! And kudos for such a well-written article!

    Comment by Jane Massengill — July 16, 2021 @ 1:02 PM

  32. I have had the SPECT Scan. It has changed my life. I found out some really disturbing things from it. I am bipolar. I found out I had an undiagnosed TBI. I go in for my rescan next week! Really feeling upbeat about that.

    Comment by Loretta Hart — July 16, 2021 @ 1:46 PM

  33. Finally! This is great news! Congratulations to Amen Clinics for being the forerunner in using SPECT for diagnosis and treatment of the many brain issues it can identify!

    Comment by JACKIE TIRADO — July 16, 2021 @ 2:31 PM

  34. We knew this day would come. Traditional psychiatry run by the pharmaceutical companies was content to do the same thing over and over expecting a different outcome. The true hallmark of insanity but it made them billions. SPECT looks at the brain function and allows decisions to be made cutting down trial and error. This is a happy change, congratulations Dan, a true pioneer!

    Comment by Bill Shryer — July 17, 2021 @ 3:40 AM

  35. This is WONDERFUL news and finally! Now to get the rest of the US states to accept this and make insurances cover this since it is a beneficial treatment assessment. After my daughter acquired a TBI, very special friends helped us w the cost of getting a scan done to help us see the damage to her brain. The Amen clinic was very professional and helpful in educating us on her brain damage severity. After close to 5 yrs of rebuilding, I am hoping to have another scan done for her to see the incredible brain changes but cost is holding us back.

    Comment by Mary — July 17, 2021 @ 5:24 AM

  36. I do hope you will be able to open a clinic in the Vancouver, BC area. I wanted to take a family member to your Seattle clinic years ago, but it was cost-prohibitive at the time.

    Comment by Jennifer Walter — July 17, 2021 @ 5:38 AM

  37. I have had 14 etc treatments nothing seems to help my b

    Comment by Grace howaniec — July 17, 2021 @ 7:46 AM

  38. Congratulations! I am an Amen Clinic alumnus found the visual confrontation with what’s going on bewteeen one’s ears very powerful. Not to
    mention the encouragement to follow a sensible lifestyle. So simple.
    What do US agencies have to say? Common sense healing doesn’t sell drugs.

    Comment by Edward Flynn — July 18, 2021 @ 1:03 AM

  39. I am a case manager for a 65 year old woman with many mental health issues. How much does cost. Does Medicare and blue cross cover the appt and scanning

    Comment by Ange DiBenedetto — July 18, 2021 @ 5:49 PM

  40. Hello Ange. Thank you for reaching out. We would be happy to contact you directly with more information regarding scheduling an appointment at one of our 9 clinics, as well as information on pricing and insurance. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — July 19, 2021 @ 10:53 AM

  41. Please tell me if there is a clinic or doctor in the Philadelphia area that does SPECT scans. Philly is a leading medical community and has University of Pennsylvania and Jefferson. Why is Philly not home to an Amen Clinic. Residents must travel to NYC or DC—we are right in the middle!!

    Comment by Patricia Jillard — July 19, 2021 @ 10:42 PM

  42. Hi Patricia, if you’re unable to travel to one of our locations, our Care Coordinators may be able to assist you with resources or referrals closer to you. For more information, please contact our Care Coordinators: https://www.amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — July 22, 2021 @ 11:45 AM

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