What LeAnn Rimes’ Brain Scan Shows About Dopamine, Depression, and Anxiety

LeAnn Rimes

How can someone with a million-watt smile, a powerhouse singing voice, and wild success feel so empty, so blah, so ho-hum? Just ask Grammy Award winner LeAnn Rimes. The superstar singer, actress, and author has spoken publicly about dealing with a lack of motivation, a shortage of energy, anxious thoughts, and a serious lack of joy in her life. To help her understand why, LeAnn visited Amen Clinics to get a brain scan and talked about it in an episode of Scan My Brain with Daniel Amen, MD. Her brain scan revealed some surprises about dopamine, depression, and anxiety.

 

For about 10 years, LeAnn Rimes has been dealing with a lack of motivation, a shortage of energy, anxious thoughts, and a serious lack of joy in her life. To help her understand why she visited Amen Clinics to get a brain scan. Click To Tweet

GROWING UP WITH STRESS

Like many young people, LeAnn grew up with a lot of stress. Stress can take many forms. For some kids, it’s due to neglectful parents, domestic violence, abuse, food insecurity, bullying, or other issues. For LeAnn, it took shape in her teenage years when at the age of 16 she sued her father, who was her manager at the time, and her record label.

In the Scan My Brain episode, she told Dr. Amen the lawsuit against her father was due to financial mismanagement. And the one against her record label? “The record deal I signed is known as the worst deal in history,” she sighs. It took time to disentangle herself from it, and she recalls that period of her life as a traumatic one.

Despite this, LeAnn loved performing, and in her first 3.5 years as an entertainer, she did about 500 concerts. Her songs hit the charts and fans screamed her name everywhere she went. That kind of fandom can go to a person’s head—literally! That much excitement and adulation at such a young age can have a significant impact on the developing brain. In particular, it affects the brain’s reward system and dopamine production.

DOPAMINE AND MOTIVATION

Dopamine is a feel-good neurotransmitter that is involved in motivation, mood, and attention. It is released whenever something rewarding happens, such as eating that first bite of a tasty meal, having sex, buying something new, or getting a promotion. Think of these rewards as a dopamine drip, that gives you little doses of the neurotransmitter. In LeAnn’s case, performing on stage in front of thousands of fans as a teenager was more like a dopamine flood.

This can wear out the dopamine receptors in the brain, causing a person to need more and more excitement to feel happiness. When the receptors are worn out, it can be associated with depression, a lack of motivation, and low energy. It’s like the zest for life got squashed.

LeAnn says she feels a need to be in constant motion—recording music, doing interviews, and more. “They’re all dopamine drivers,” she acknowledges.

WHAT BRAIN SCANS REVEAL ABOUT DEPRESSION, ANXIETY, AND MORE

Brain SPECT imaging reveals so much about depression, anxiety, and more. SPECT is a neuroimaging technology that measures blood flow and activity in the brain. It shows areas of the brain with healthy activity, too much activity, and too little activity.

What did LeAnn’s brain scan show?

In the Scan My Brain episode, Dr. Amen explains that the singer’s brain scan reveals low blood flow in the temporal lobes—a common sign of a past head injury. LeAnn shares that she hit her head in a car accident when she was about 25. Concussions can be associated with moodiness and anxiousness. And it was a few years later that the singer’s struggles with depression and anxiety began.

The brain imaging work at Amen Clinics shows that mild traumatic brain injuries are a major cause of psychiatric symptoms, but few people know it because most psychiatrists never look at the brain. Considering there are millions of head injuries each year, there are likely millions of people with undetected damage to the brain that may be causing symptoms associated with psychiatric conditions.

HOW MEDICATION CAN CHANGE YOUR BRAIN

SPECT shows that medications can alter the way the brain functions. For the Scan My Brain episode, LeAnn’s brain was scanned multiple times—once while taking a medication called Vyvanse, which is a prescription medication that boosts frontal lobe function, and again when she was not taking the medication. Her brain scans on and off the prescribed drug show marked differences in activity.

While off the medication, her brain scan reveals heightened activity in the emotional centers of the brain, which is associated with depression. On the medication, the activity in the emotional centers is more balanced, however, there is increased activity in the basal ganglia, which is commonly seen in people with anxiety.

Seeing the images helped LeAnn understand the changes in the way she feels when taking or not taking the medication. On it, she says she feels more motivated but also more anxious. Off it, she’s calmer but moodier and lethargic.

HEALING THE ANXIETY AND EMOTIONAL CENTERS OF THE BRAIN

Medication isn’t the only way to balance brain function in the emotional centers or anxiety centers of the brain, improve moods, and calm anxiousness. There are many natural strategies to overcome depression and anxiety. In addition, there are several natural ways to balance dopamine in the brain. In the Scan My Brain episode, Dr. Amen introduces LeAnn to a few simple techniques to reduce negative thinking patterns that contribute to depression, anxiety, and worry. By incorporating daily brain-healthy habits, many people can reduce or eliminate prescription medications altogether.

Depression, anxiety, 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.

6 Comments »

  1. I have had three blows to my head, one with a golf club, ugg, one with the butt end of a hockey stick, and one falling 13 feet from a ladder onto concrete. I have noticed that my motivation now that I am retired is very low and I had always worked 10 to 12 hours, taught judo and gone to the gym, life was not easy but being busy seemed to be enough. I now seem to be going uphill each day, I also think that lack of action tends to put me in my head so to speak which can be a challenge. So I can relate to this challenge Leann is living with:

    Comment by Timothy Udell — March 2, 2023 @ 9:15 AM

  2. Do you know anyone in Australia who does your type of brain scan ? And if not can you please try and come out and educate Australian doctors.

    Comment by Michele — March 2, 2023 @ 12:18 PM

  3. I don't think you said how you resolved LeAnn. Vyvanse is the most powerful stimulants….i would imagine you'd see big brain scan difference. So what do you prescribe for the millions w brain trauma?

    Comment by Brent — March 6, 2023 @ 3:52 AM

  4. Who wouldn’t want a brain scan? The price is too high for the average person.

    Comment by Renee Laverty — March 6, 2023 @ 6:15 AM

  5. I am interested in a scan. All my symptoms seem to be like Leanne. I don’t want to do anything. I work out three times a week but gaining weight. I am 64. I have been a hard worker all my life. But I am so unmotivated to do anything.

    Comment by Joleen Huyck — March 6, 2023 @ 8:56 AM

  6. Is there a way for low income people to get Spect exams,? I don't believe my insurance covers it.

    Comment by Brian Lichty — March 6, 2023 @ 8:45 PM

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