SPECT Distinguishes TBI and PTSD Difference

Blog-SPECT Distinguishes TBI & PTSD Difference

SPECT is once again showing its value by distinguishing the fine line between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) in nonmilitary patients, which should lead to better treatment for the disorders.

What Research Says

In the study, published online in PLOS One, SPECT achieved at least 80% sensitivity for distinguishing TBI from PTSD in a group of patients with a wide range of comorbidities.

The results follow research earlier this year in which Cyrus Raji and colleagues validated SPECT’s efficacy in distinguishing PTSD and TBI in a military population. SPECT clearly showed perfusion differences in the brain’s default mode network that could help radiologists distinguish TBI from PTSD among these patients.

Similarities Between TBI and PTSD

The findings in the current study and past research are particularly relevant because mild TBI often goes undetected using conventional structural imaging, while chronic TBI symptoms often mirror and overlap those of PTSD.

The greatest concern is that treatment for TBI and PTSD differs greatly and a misdiagnosis can lead to inappropriate follow-up.

Treatment for PTSD

The pharmacological treatments for PTSD, such as benzodiazepines and atypical antipsychotics, can impede function or be dangerous in those who have TBI. Similarly, antipsychotics have been shown to impede recovery or be contraindicated in clinical studies and animal models of TBI.

Effects on Brain Regions

Not surprisingly, there are similarities in terms of the brain regions affected by TBI and PTSD. For example, the frontal lobes are adversely affected in both sets of patients.

In terms of brain regions, subjects with PTSD showed increased perfusion in the limbic structures, cingulum, basal ganglia, insula, thalamus, prefrontal cortex, and temporal lobes, compared with those with TBI.

We Can Help

At Amen Clinics, we can help you and your loved ones overcome the stigma and suffering associated with ADD/ADHD, anxiety, depression, brain injury, weight loss, addictions, memory issues, brain fog, and other emotional and cognitive issues. If you are ready to regain control over your life or help a loved one do the same, give us a call at 1-888-288-9834 or click here to ask a question.


  1. Back in spring of 2010 (that or 2009), my son, David Bernheim, and I flew to Northern CA. To get a spect scan on my son. We were told he had PTSD in a major way. I tried to contact the clinic to get additional understanding and help and did not get a response. I do believe Spect imaging is wonderful; however, I was not impressed by our Dr. My son needs help and, at this point, I don’t know what to do. Can you please provide help? I am on a limited income and do not know how best I can help my son.
    Suzette Jennings

    Comment by Suzette Jenningd — April 27, 2018 @ 6:33 AM

  2. Dear Dr. Amen,
    I have been suffering extreme anxiety w/panic attacks for the past 15 months. Trigger was a breast surgery in November 2016. I can never seem to get relief. Neck & back muscles get so tight, early on I would have bouts of rapid heartbeat >100bpm, now just irregular heartbeats that wake me in early AM hours. I have tried multiple antidepressants. Some caused bad tachycardia, some immediate anxiety/panic attacks, some akathesia (internal hell) for up to 30 hours before the drug (Zoloft) left my system. Most left me w/continued bouts of akathesia & brain zaps even after a few doses. I hurt all over, I’m tired, I have light & sound sensitivity. I have had a cardiac workup showing just sporadic PVCs. I had a head MRI w/contrast. Neurologist said it was fine. My head actually feels strange at times. I can always tell when it is going to get worse because of increased light & sound sensitivity. Psychiatrist has not found a medication I can tolerate except for benzodiazepines. I know the medicine is just a ‘bandaid’ & not correcting the problem. My husband & I sought help from Mayo Clinic in April 2017. The best DX they could come up w/is Central Sensitivity Syndrome. I had anxiety/panic attacks when I was younger a couple of times, but never this long or bad. I live in Oklahoma. I have been following your work for a year or so. Do you have a location in Dallas? Do you think you could help me?

    Comment by Debbie Earley — April 27, 2018 @ 7:02 AM

  3. I wish the average person could have such valuable services available to them. This clinic requires out of pocket payment. Unfortunately, most individuals with serious mental illness do not have access to such funds!

    Comment by Andrea — April 27, 2018 @ 12:01 PM

  4. I’d appreciate it if you relay whatever info you find re: SPECT in Dallas, as I’m extremely interested in this! I haven’t found anything here, though.

    Comment by alice ihde — April 28, 2018 @ 5:31 AM

  5. Could my son get a scan done here in Australia/Gold Coast and send it to you to diagnose. He did have 2 head damage incidents he is a talented musician then due to marijuana usage he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and is on medication which has been debilitating. We are desperate for help.

    Comment by cindee cook — April 28, 2018 @ 5:36 AM

  6. Do you think you could have autonomic nervous system dysfunction? It can be set off by a trauma such as a surgery.

    Comment by Julie — April 28, 2018 @ 6:06 AM

  7. I would agree that the cost is prohibitive. As a counselor, I would love to refer people to the Amen clinic, those who could really use the help, but working class people, who get free counseling at our office, simply can’t afford it. I hope someday this will change.

    Comment by Jim Heckman — April 28, 2018 @ 7:58 AM

  8. Suzette and Debbie,
    I have found magnesium can play a big role in easing anxiety of any kind and rapid heartbeat. Consistent use and absorbability, especially of minerals, is the key to getting good results. For very stressful times, more may be needed. The only side effect will be loose bowels and you will know to cut back. All supplements are definitely not the same, so don’t buy the cheapest and expect much in return. Minerals are rocks and need to be broken down to a size the body can use. Plants do that for us, but the soil is so depleted of most nutrients that we need to supplement. I recommend looking at ReMag. If that is too expensive, try MegaMag (best price at Allstarhealth.com) Both are liquid, have a bitter taste, and will have to be diluted sufficiently or masked in some way to get it down. If you need it to taste good, Natural Vitality Natural Calm Magnesium powder is a good choice. Do your research about each — MegaMag includes trace minerals; ReMag and Natural Calm need to be supplemented with another source of trace minerals. My favorite product for stopping rapid heartbeat and for many other good effects is a liquid vitamin/mineral supplement called Vibe, available from Eniva.com. If I get a rapid heartbeat, I take 2 oz of Vibe and it goes away immediately. Vibe is a nutritionally comprehensive product and it tastes pretty good when diluted in water or juice..
    I believe we are all deficient in vitamins and minerals because most people don’t eat vegetables and if they do, the vegetables are not grown in nutritionally-rich soil. God designed nature to give us all we need. Switch to an organic whole foods diet, with lots of greens and other vegetables and make your own green smoothies. Also exercise, get daily sunshine, sleep well and long enough at night. You will begin to heal. You will most likely still need supplements. Research herbs that are relevant to your dis-ease. There is help from nutrition and herbs for everything, if you will research and apply. If you are taking medications, choose carefully which herbs you use. The biggest risk, aside from addiction, of most medications is that they deplete the body of various vitamins and minerals. Get the book “Drug Muggers” by pharmacist Suzy Cohen (at most libraries) to learn what vitamins and minerals are depleted by certain medications so that you can protect against further cellular deterioration due to diminished nutrition.
    Also, check out the history of Bach flower remedies and consider using Rescue Remedy — I have seen it do wonders at relaxing someone who is in a state of anxiety — works well for 2 Autistic/ADD children I know.
    Hope this helps.
    PS I am not a health care professional — just someone who has done my own research, gave it my best guess, and with time made great improvements in my own health and well-being, as well as for people in my life, couple of them in their 80’s and 90’s.

    Comment by Kay — April 28, 2018 @ 9:34 PM

  9. I called your centers for almost 2 years, when you call , it doesn’t matter which branch you call, there is no human to talk to, only a machine which tells you to leave a message I left many messages and I’m still waiting for somebody or a robot to answer, but I gave up stopped calliing no use trying

    Comment by HL — April 30, 2018 @ 4:41 PM

  10. Hello and thank you for reaching out. We have a national Care Center available at 888-288-9834 to take calls as well as phone numbers for our clinics available to reach their staff about appointments. Those numbers can be found here: https://amenclinics.com/locations/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — May 1, 2018 @ 7:37 AM

  11. Can brain imaging detect gaba receptors? If so, can imaging show whether the receptors are impaired?

    Comment by Sherry — May 1, 2018 @ 10:00 PM

  12. It doesn’t matter much in cognitive remediation classes where your whole injury is diagnosed. TBI, PTSD…as long as a diagnosis is made, as it is done in cognitive remediaiton classes, treatment is thus offered for whatever it may be…

    Comment by John L. Barrella — July 11, 2018 @ 5:22 PM

  13. We r experiencing the same situation!!

    Comment by Elizabeth Urps — September 7, 2018 @ 3:10 AM

  14. Please check into using EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) for PTSD.

    I have seen it work seeming miracles for combat veterans and others.

    There is a LOT you can learn completely free of charge and there are affordable practitioners who can help you. Check out Gary Craig’s website emofree dot com. I do not receive any money for referring that site.

    All the best to you and your son.

    Comment by John Richter — September 7, 2018 @ 4:50 AM

  15. Have you had any neuromuscular or chiropractic treatment? I’ve had panic attacks and migraine auras and severe neck pain. Migraines and neck pain gone once my c-1 and c-2 were realigned and muscle spasms relieved. Anxiety down too. I worked at an alternative cancer treatment doing counseling, and one of first things the dr had patients do was get cervical spine checked. Not many practitioners pay attention to neck being unaligned. Can happen from having teeth cleaned (have to hold your head in awkward position) to car accidents. PS, I had breast ca too. I’m lucky to live in a city where the man who invented neurosomantic practices. School developed here, so others around country. If you get it checked out and choose chiropractic be sure to find gentle (no snapping neck). Not saying not to go to Dr Amen, because I want to also (car accident). Good luck.

    Comment by Leslie Green — September 7, 2018 @ 6:35 PM

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