When Your MRI is Normal, But You Aren’t

When Your MRI is Normal, But You Aren’t

When you’re suffering from cognitive issues—whether it’s memory loss, trouble concentrating, or confusion—and you desperately want answers, you may visit a neurologist to determine if your problems stem from your brain. If you do, it’s likely the neurologist will send you for an MRI brain imaging test.

But what happens when your neurologist says your MRI looks normal and sends you home even though your bothersome symptoms persist? Or what if they tell you that your symptoms are all in your head? It can make you feel like you’re losing your mind.

News flash: Your problems are all in your head—in the way your brain functions!

When it comes to your emotional well-being and your behavior, MRI is not the best brain imaging tool. An MRI can’t give you the answers you want because it doesn’t provide any information on how the brain functions. It only reveals problems with the brain’s structure, such as brain tumors, inflammation, or swelling.

Think Function, Not Form

Functional brain imaging technology, such as SPECT, reveals how your brain works. This nuclear medicine study measures blood flow and activity in the brain and reveals 3 key 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 can be helpful in assessing what is happening in the brain in relation to behavior and emotional issues. This functional brain imaging study can reveal brain patterns associated with dementia, head injuries, ADD/ADHD, anxiety, depression, addictions, infections, exposure to toxins, and more.

You Deserve Answers

If you have had an MRI that was normal, but you don’t feel normal, don’t give up hope. Keep seeking answers.

Here are 5 tips to help you find out what’s bothering you.

1. Find a practitioner who uses functional brain imaging.

Functional brain scans, such as SPECT scans, can help identify brain patterns associated with a variety of cognitive and mental problems. Seeing your brain scan can also decrease shame and stigma because it allows you to realize that your problems are biological, not psychological. It helps you understand that you are not imagining your symptoms, and they are not your fault.

2. Seek help from an integrative medicine physician who will check for biological causes of cognitive function problems.

Cognitive dysfunction can be related to a number of physical health issues, including hormonal imbalances, infections (such as Lyme disease), inflammation, exposure to toxins, diabetes, and low blood flow. An integrative medicine practitioner can address these physical problems to improve overall brain health.

3. Look for a health provider who is knowledgeable about how nutrition affects brain health.

What you eat has a direct and dramatic effect on your psychological wellbeing and cognitive function. Unfortunately, most medical students and psychiatry students receive little to no training in nutrition. Finding someone who can provide nutrition coaching and information on nutraceuticals targeted to your individual needs can lead to significant improvements.

4. Consider a healthcare professional who offers complementary therapies.

There are many alternative therapies—such as neurofeedback, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and others—that are well-researched and proven to produce results without side effects.

5. Choose a provider who thinks skills, not just pills.

Finding a psychotherapist or psychiatrist who can give you the tools you need, rather than simply giving you a prescription for medication can help you in the long run. Medications can be an important part of a treatment plan, but they should not be the first and only option recommended.

Amen Clinics has built 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 and a personalized treatment program that includes optimizing your biological, psychological, social, and spiritual factors can help you overcome cognitive issues. Find out how we can help you by calling 888-288-9834 or schedule a visit.


  1. What financial programs does Amen clinic offer in order to get a spect study?
    Thank you,
    Eve Derstine

    Comment by Eve Derstine — November 19, 2019 @ 11:27 AM

  2. Could you recommend a dr in Houston Texas that practices medicine like what’s stated in your article. I have hashimotos and adult add and need a good functional medical dr. Please reply back.

    Comment by Teffany Keilberg — December 9, 2019 @ 3:28 AM

  3. I am dyslexia and ada and no one seems to help me. When it comes to spelling some words I remember others I forget. The nerve doctor said that perhaps some words make you nervious. NONESENSE. NO one in the medical profession seems to help. I> hope this willn’t go on deaf hears. EDWARD STERN.

    Comment by edward stern — December 9, 2019 @ 3:31 AM

  4. Do you have any supporting research for Neurofeedback and HBOT?

    Comment by Anne A — December 9, 2019 @ 3:59 AM

  5. Dr. Amen,
    Both my husband and myself have psychiatric issues. Your nutritional suggestions have made a huge difference for me, however it’s a major feat to convince my husband to pay attention to his nutrition. Although he has a serious phobia about doctors, he has agreed to get psychiatric treatment. My experience with all my doctors has been less than satisfactory. I’ve been left to take my own health into my hands. WHO on the Southside of Chicago is involved in functional psychiatry and affordable? My husband and I live on our Social Security and have an AARP Medicare Advantage Health Plan for 2020. Can you provide effective affordable treatment options for both of us?

    Comment by Peggy Juricek — December 9, 2019 @ 9:01 AM

  6. We live in Australia. Please advise if there are practitioner in Australia who can provide a spect scan?

    Comment by Annette Carter — December 9, 2019 @ 10:33 AM

  7. I have been told I have ADD, and my own research leads me to believe I have been struggling with Misophonia my entire life. I’m 54 years old.
    I live in Birmingham, AL
    Any suggestions on where to begin?

    Comment by Jennifer R Oestrike — December 9, 2019 @ 1:20 PM

  8. My recent brain MRI was normal. Would you have suggestions for functional medicine providers in Colorado? Also, facilities that do SPECT scans? Thank you. Keep up the good work!

    Comment by Annie — December 9, 2019 @ 3:12 PM

  9. This worked for someone I tutored years ago. Try using tinted plastic sheets to read thru or if using a computer change the color of print and/or back ground color. Keeping trying different colors.

    Comment by Bridget — December 9, 2019 @ 6:55 PM

  10. I live in Colorado and I am interested in getting a SPECT scan. I have all the symptoms of MS. My MRI’s have come back normal. I see a wonderful chiro/nuro . He has helped me out a lot. He has done several different blood test, that is where MS and Lupus showed up. I’ve changed my diet which was the best thing that I could of done. I take some really great supplements that help me out. He has helped me out so much on understanding my brain. I still have problems with my body going down. But at the same time, I’ve come back to being semi normal than what I was 10 Yrs ago. I can walk and talk now, and not in bed as much anymore. He is my angel.

    Comment by Anita — December 10, 2019 @ 9:46 AM

  11. Hello Anita, thank you for reaching out. We’d be happy to contact you directly to see how we can assist you with a brain SPECT scan. We look forward to speaking with you.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — December 10, 2019 @ 11:41 AM

  12. We do offer Irlen Syndrome screening and treatment. For more information, visit: https://amenclinics.com/services/irlen-screening/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — December 10, 2019 @ 11:42 AM

  13. Hello Annie, thank you for reaching out. We’d be happy to contact you directly to better serve you in Colorado. We do have 8 clinic locations currently (https://amenclinics.com/locations/) but we can make other accommodations or recommendations. We look forward to speaking with you.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — December 10, 2019 @ 11:43 AM

  14. Hello Jennifer, thank you for reaching out. We’d be happy to contact you directly to better serve you in Alabama. We do have 8 clinic locations currently (https://amenclinics.com/locations/) but we can make other accommodations or recommendations. We look forward to speaking with you.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — December 10, 2019 @ 11:43 AM

  15. Hello Annette, thank you for reaching out. At this time we currently have 8 clinic locations in the U.S. (https://amenclinics.com/locations/), but we’d be happy to reach out to you to discuss further.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — December 10, 2019 @ 11:44 AM

  16. Hello Peggy, thank you for reaching out. We do have a clinic located in Bannockburn, IL: https://amenclinics.com/locations/chicago/. We’d be happy to contact you directly to explore the options for integrative and functional psychiatry and discuss insurance, reimbursement, and financing options. We look forward to speaking with you.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — December 10, 2019 @ 3:33 PM

  17. Hi my name is Shelley Shaw and I live in Ward, Arkansas. In 2009 I was diagnosed with Trigeminal Neuralgia which is a chronic neurological conditions that has caused me much severe pain, anxiety and has rendered me disabled. In 2012 I went to a neurosurgeon who ordered an MRI and called me in his office the same day of that MRI to go over the results of my scan which was very concerning because that never happens. By the time I stepped in his office I was scheduled for a left Cranial (Brain) Surgery. I am 38 years old and a mother with 2 young girls. The surgery was performed and 2 sponges were placed inside my head to block the trigeminal nerve from the blood vessels and artery that was causing my pain. It was an unsuccessful surgery and here I am 10 years later scared to even find a primary doctor or any doctors because most do not specialize in my rare condition and I have lost my faith in most practitioners because I fear that no one can help me. I have not been back to a doctor in years and my attacks have overly consumed me. At this point it’s imperative I get a grip and seek the right care to save my life because I love my girls and they need their momma back. Do you have any suggestions for me possibly any other options. Thank you for your time.

    Comment by Shelley Shaw — December 11, 2019 @ 1:19 AM

  18. Do these help with ausitm. maybe to rule out TBI or other brain issues/injuries that might be cause of disorders and rule out autism, so one can get appropriate treatment for the cause?

    Comment by Baby — November 6, 2021 @ 9:05 AM

  19. Thank you for reaching out. We’d be happy to give you more information about Autism (https://amenclinics.com/conditions/autism-spectrum-disorder/) and how we may be able to assist you with brain SPECT scans. Please contact our Care Coordinators for more information: https://amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — November 10, 2021 @ 7:57 PM

  20. Hope all is well.
    Will the spect scan show any head ,brain injury/trauma that happened over 20 years ago. My mother has had mri cat scan that show normal and When she has what I call episodes she is not normal. She fell and hit back of her head very hard on concrete in 1988 . One month later she started having little jerks in stomach and now an episode is violent chorea best I can describe. She tests negative with Parkinson’s, huntingtons and everything like that. Some days she wakes up with episodes, some days she wakes up normal…tired of drs. Doing the same test with no real result but prescribe meds we couldn’t afford.

    I appreciate any information,
    PL lewis

    Comment by Wanda shirah — September 28, 2023 @ 11:52 AM

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