Sunday, September 18, 2005

Daniel Amen, MD @ AC2005

Daniel started off with a very interesting story about what they have learned by brain scans. He talked about a patient where they did a brain scan - exploring some severe martial issues - and found what appeared to be a brain with bad "toxicity". He indicated this was equivilent to heavy drug abuse or alcohol abuse. The man, and his wife, indicated there was no way he did either of these. What he found after numerous conversations is that

He has imaged numerous criminals including murderers, and to him there are obvious patterns. He is amazed at the ignorance demonstrated when brain imaging in not used to diagnose mental health.

All of his clinics work is based on 9 very simple principals:
  • The brain is involved in everything you do.
  • When your brain works right, you work right. When your brain doesn't work right, you have trouble.
  • Brain is the most complex organ - 100b neurons, trillion supporting cells
  • Brain is very soft, housed in a hard skull - brain injuries matter!
  • One size does not fit everyone - most problems are not single or simple disorders
  • Brain imaging can be very helpful - how do you know unless you look?
  • The brain can change - right interventions help, wrong interventions hurt!
  • Myth of the perfect brain - we all need a little help ...
  • Brain is not completely developed until age 25 - myelinization occurs to optimize operation

SPECT - single photon emission computed tomography - is how they do their brain imaging. What he has found is that once people get an image of their brain they begin to explore other ways to continue to improve their brain. Many of these methods are alternative medicine and supplements. He showed a series of amazing images of healthy brains, stroke victims, alzheimers, and various head injuries.

He indicated the core value is the ability to specifically target treatments, explain behavior, and predict future issues. It also removes the stigma of "mental illness" ... as it is now a physical medical condition that can be treated through known science.
Psychiatrists are the only medical specialists who rarely look at the organ they treat. The odds are that if a patient is having serious problems with feelings (eg, depression), thoughts (eg, schizophrenia), or behavior (eg, violence), the psychiatrist will never order a brain scan. He or she will prescribe medication, psychotherapy, electroconvulsive therapy, or a host of other treatments that will change brain function—but will not know which areas of the patient's brain work well, which areas work too hard, and which do not work hard enough. In my opinion, the lack of brain imaging has kept psychiatry behind medicine's other specialties, reducing our effectiveness with patients and hindering our efforts to reduce stigma and improve compliance.
He indicated that a brain scan costs ~$1000, with a full check up costing ~$3200. He said there are other things that are also coming into this same space ... one example is Journey to Wild Devine ... another set are outlined on his web site - Seven Ways to Optimize your Brain.


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