The most important lesson from 83,000 brain scans: Daniel Amen


Daniel Gregory Amen is an American psychiatrist, a brain disorder specialist, director of the Amen Clinics, and a New York Times bestselling author.


Dr. Daniel Amen speaks about the intersection of medical imaging and psychiatry. He and his colleagues have been using brain SPECT imaging: A tool used to help psychiatrists understand more about imaging. For the past 22 years they’ve built the largest database of brain scans related to behavior. Shockingly, psychiatrists are the only medical specialists that don’t look at the organ they treat. Consider head trauma, which can have the symptoms like insomnia and temper problems, but show different brain activity. These patients often get misdiagnosed and unnecessarily medicated. Basing treatment on clusters of symptoms instead of individual brains is simply dangerous.

When Daniel scanned the brains of over 500 convicted felons, he discovered that people who do bad things, often have troubled brains. But more surprisingly, he learned that these brains can be rehabilitated. What would happen if we treated these brains instead of warehousing them in a toxic environment? Instead of just crime and punishment, we should be thinking about crime, evaluation, and treatment.

The most important Daniel has learned is that you can literally change people’s brains and when you do, you change their lives. On a study on NFL players, players showing poor brain function were put on a Brain Smart program. After the program 80% of the players improved their memory, mood, and blood flow. It is possible to reverse brain damage. He mentions several other studies including Andrew, a 9 year old boy, who was extremely violent and would draw pictures of himself shooting other kids. He was a tragedy waiting to happen, but instead of blindly medicating him Daniel used brain scans to identify a golf ball sized cyst in his brain. After the cyst was removed, all of his behavioral problems went away. Daniel reveals that Andrew is his own nephew and ends his talk with a picture of Andrew at 18 years.

5 thoughts on “The most important lesson from 83,000 brain scans: Daniel Amen

  1. Thank you Dr Daniel Amen for your research. I think that yourself and your hardworking team should conduct more studies. I dont think such a large sample size is needed, but instead focus should be on 1)brain imaging in different ways ..2)different treatment modalities – medical, surgical, different behavioral ones alone, and combination treatments and …3) brain imaging outcomes at different points during the treatment as well as behavioral differences documented throughout treatment and imagining series…. I hope you all the best. Thank you for your great work.

  2. Pingback: What makes a good life? – The Free Age
  3. That picture isn’t Andrew at 18. He said, “18 years later.” That puts Andrew at 27 since he was 9 when they scanned his brain and removed the cyst.

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