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

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


Translator: Ilze Garda
Reviewer: Denise RQ In this talk, I’m going to give you
the single most important lesson my colleagues and I have learned
from looking at 83,000 brain scans. But first, let me put
the lesson into context. I am in the middle of seven children. Growing up, my father called me a maverick which to him was not a good thing. (Laughter) In 1972, the army called my number, and I was trained as an infantry medic
where my love of medicine was born. But since I truly hated the idea
of being shot at or sleeping in the mud, I got myself retrained
as an X-ray technician and developed a passion
for medical imaging. As our professors used to say:
“How do you know, unless you look?” In 1979, when I was
a second-year medical student, someone in my family
became seriously suicidal, and I took her to see
a wonderful psychiatrist. Over time, I realized
if he helped her, which he did, it would not only save her life, but it would also help her children
and even her future grandchildren, as they would be shaped by someone
who is happier and more stable. I fell in love with psychiatry because I realized it had the potential
to change generations of people. In 1991, I went to my first lecture
on brain SPECT imaging. SPECT is a nuclear medicine study
that looks at the blood flow and activity, it looks at how your brain works. SPECT was presented
as a tool to help psychiatrists get more information
to help their patients. In that one lecture,
my two professional loves, medical imaging and psychiatry, came together, and quite honestly,
revolutionized my life. Over the next 22 years,
my colleagues and I would build the world’s largest database
of brain scans related to behavior on patients from 93 countries. SPECT basically tells us
three things about the brain: good activity, too little, or too much. Here’s a set of healthy SPECT scans. The image on the left shows
the outside surface of the brain, and a healthy scan shows full,
even, symmetrical activity. The color is not important,
it’s the shape that matters. In the image on the right,
red equals the areas of high activity, and in a healthy brain, they’re typically
in the back part of the brain. Here’s a healthy scan compared
to someone who had two strokes. You can see the holes of activity. Here’s what Alzheimer’s looks like, where the back half
of the brain is deteriorating. Did you know that Alzheimer’s disease
actually starts in the brain 30 to 50 years before
you have any symptoms? Here’s a scan
of a traumatic brain injury. Your brain is soft,
and your skull is really hard. Or drug abuse. The real reason not to use drugs –
they damage your brain. Obsessive–compulsive disorder where the front part of the brain
typically works too hard, so that people cannot
turn off their thoughts. An epilepsy where we frequently
see areas of increased activity. In 1992, I went to an all-day conference
on brain SPECT imaging, it was amazing and mirrored our own early experience
using SPECT in psychiatry. But at that same meeting,
researchers started to complain loudly that clinical psychiatrists like me
should not be doing scans, that they were only for their research. Being the maverick
and having clinical experience, I thought that was a really dumb idea. (Laughter) Without imaging, psychiatrists then and even now
make diagnosis like they did in 1840, when Abraham Lincoln was depressed, by talking to people and looking
for symptom clusters. Imaging was showing us
there was a better way. Did you know that psychiatrists
are the only medical specialists that virtually never look
at the organ they treat? Think about it! Cardiologists look, neurologists look,
orthopedic doctors look, virtually every other
medical specialties look – psychiatrists guess. Before imaging, I always felt like I was throwing
darts in the dark at my patients and had hurt some of them
which horrified me. There is a reason that most psychiatric medications
have black box warnings. Give them to the wrong person,
and you can precipitate a disaster. Early on, our imaging work
taught us many important lessons, such as illnesses, like ADHD,
anxiety, depression, and addictions, are not simple or single
disorders in the brain, they all have multiple types. For example, here are two patients who have been diagnosed
with major depression, that had virtually the same symptoms,
yet radically different brains. One had really low activity in the brain,
the other one had really high activity. How would you ever know what to do
for them, unless you actually looked? Treatment needs to be tailored to individual brains,
not clusters of symptoms. Our imaging work also taught us that mild traumatic brain injury
was a major cause of psychiatric illness that ruin people’s lives, and virtually no one knew about it
because they would see psychiatrists for things like temper problems,
anxiety, depression, and insomnia, and they would never look,
so they would never know. Here’s a scan of a 15-year-old boy who felt down a flight of stairs
at the age of three. Even though he was unconscious
for only a few minutes, there was nothing mild
about the enduring effect that injury had on this boy’s life. When I met him at the age of 15,
he had just been kicked out of his third residential
treatment program for violence. He needed a brain rehabilitation program, not just more medication
thrown at him in the dark, or behavioral therapy which,
if you think about it, is really cruel. To put him on a behavioral therapy program when behavior is really an expression
of the problem, it’s not the problem. Researchers have found
that undiagnosed brain injuries are a major cause of homelessness,
drug and alcohol abuse, depression, panic attacks, ADHD, and suicide. We are in for a pending disaster with the hundreds
and thousands of soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afganistan, and virtually no one is looking
at the function of their brain. As we continued our work with SPECT, the criticism grew louder,
but so did the lessons. Judges and defense attorneys sought
our help to understand criminal behavior. Today, we have scanned
over 500 convicted felons including 90 murderers. Our work taught us
that people who do bad things often have troubled brains. That was not a surprise. But what did surprise us was that many of these brains
could be rehabilitated. So here’s a radical idea. What if we evaluated
and treated troubled brains rather than simply warehousing them
in toxic, stressful environments? In my experience, we could save
tremendous amounts of money by making these people more functional, so when they left prison, they could work, support their families and pay taxes. Dostoyevsky once said:
“A society should be judged not by how well it treats
its outstanding citizens, but by how it treats its criminals.” Instead of just crime and punishment, we should be thinking
about crime evaluation and treatment. (Applause) So after 22 years and 83,000 scans, the single most important lesson
my colleagues and I have learned is that you can literally
change people’s brains. And when you do, you change their life. You are not stuck with the brain you have, you can make it better,
and we can prove it. My colleagues and I performed
the first and largest study on active and retired NFL players, showing high levels of damage
in these players at the time when the NFL said they didn’t know if playing football caused
long-term brain damage. The fact was they didn’t want to know. That was not a surprise. I think, if you get the most thoughtful
9-year-olds together, and you talk about the brain is soft,
about the consistency of soft butter, it’s housed in a really hard skull
that has many sharp, bony ridges, you know, 28 out of 30
nine-year-olds would go: “Probably a bad idea for your life.” (Laughter) But what really got us excited
was the second part of the study where we put players
on a brain-smart program and demonstrated
that 80% of them could improve in the areas of blood flow,
memory, and mood, that you are not stuck
with the brain you have, you can make it better
on a brain-smart program. How exciting is that? I am so excited. Reversing brain damage
is a very exciting new frontier, but the implications
are really much wider. Here is this scan
of a teenage girl who has ADHD, who was cutting herself, failing
in school, and fighting with her parents. When we improved her brain, she went from D’s and F’s to A’s and B’s, and was much more emotionally stable. Here is the scan of Nancy. Nancy had been diagnosed with dementia, and her doctor told her husband
that he should find a home for her because within a year,
she would not know his name. But on an intensive,
brain-rehabilitation program, Nancy’s brain was better,
as was her memory, and four years later,
Nancy still knows her husband’s name. Or my favorite story
to illustrate this point: Andrew, a 9-year-old boy who attacked
a little girl on the baseball field for no particular reason, and at the time,
was drawing pictures of himself hanging from a tree
and shooting other children. Andrew was Columbine, Aurora, and Sandy Hook waiting to happen. Most psychiatrists
would have medicated Andrew, as they did Eric Harris
and the other mass shooters before they committed their awful crimes, but SPECT imaging taught me
that I had to look at his brain and not throw darts in the dark at him
to understand what he needed. His SPECT scan showed
a cyst, the size of a golf ball, occupying the space
of his left temple lobe. No amount of medication or therapy
would have helped Andrew. When the cyst was removed, his behavior completely
went back to normal, and he became the sweet, loving boy
he always wanted to be. Now 18 years later,
Andrew, who is my nephew, owns his own home,
is employed and pays taxes. (Laughter) Because someone bothered
to look at his brain, he has been a better son, and will be a better husband,
father, and grandfather. When you have the privilege
of changing someone’s brain, you not only change his or her life but you have the opportunity
to change generations to come. I’m Dr. Daniel Amen. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “The most important lesson from 83,000 brain scans | Daniel Amen | TEDxOrangeCoast

  1. I wish you would look at the brains of democrat congress people. those affected by TDS, Trump Derangement Syndrome. PLESE!

  2. I always wondered why people just blame bad people for their bad behaviour and not try finding resons that made them bad, and after watching this video i am soo happy that there are works going on to figure it out. I wish these efforts get the results they deserve 😀

  3. 5:33 just blew me away. They are playing god with us and I don't like it at all… The medical field is ruining our lives under the guise of helping us…

  4. What? A basic scan and consultation at his clinic costs almost 4000 dollars. Yet he complains about scans not being standard procedure before psychiatric treatment.

  5. I need resources for where to get a brain scan done like this please. Someone give me more info on how to get this specifically. I'm not finding much googling it. I want this done. I need it

  6. I loved this talk and I do agree that brain scans are very much needed. But I entirely disagree with his statement that behaviour therapy is cruel. Every behaviour therapist knows that the behaviour is not the problem but a symptom of the problem. It is not a cruel treatment. It's supposed to help people to cope. And I think it's an important treatment until we establish a better way to treat patients.

    Edit: Also where I work we behaviour therapists are doing research on brain scans as well. It's not as if we don't want to improve the treatment as well.

  7. The brain change definitely needs to be put through for terrorists and mass murderers filled with racism and communal violence

  8. No wonder all these smokers act weird. Brain damage from that tobacco and some 7000 chemicals. Omg 😐

    Don't smoke and don't stand by a person whom is smoking. Stay away from smoking places

    Stay away from the 420 people too.

    I've also noticed that smokers are always coughing …of course their body is struggling to remove what they smoke in! You would think they would a brain to know better! But it appears there brain is cancerous! No wonder.

  9. Spect scan for everyone with an "behavioral abnormality"?? Then you can hang up your scan in the living room and watch your cancer grow…

  10. God Bless this man for bringing to light the individuality of the human brain and the need for treatment that reflects that individuality.

  11. Reality: Only Psychology observe and cross platform known Science. Psychiatry are baseless assessment from drug induced pharmaceutical pushers using humans as lab rats. Since when has a Psychiatrist decompartmentalized trauma memory in subconscious hypnosis, when they just hand out pills as a bandage over your scars. Degrees and titles in a hierarchy NEVER equate to the individuals contribution and specialty in those fields, as ALL must experience life lessons through trial and error for themselves. No deemed professional is qualified to perform at their peak if they have not obtained that greater wisdom. Its almost as if concepts of self reflection and improvement are better left to philosophers and theologians, yet we seem to think a diploma grants other worldly abilities to those Not of those fields, when logic dictates a football player knows nothing of baking a pie, no more than a scientist specializes in self reflection.

  12. For those who are complaining about wanting to have more info about this brain program. …. USE YOUR BRAIN 😁 and Google Dr. Amen!

  13. You can tell this guy has had to explain this to a lot of people who are dubious of brain scan benefits in psychiatry. The clear, succinct speach and over emphasis on key points, great speech

  14. Individual treatment will take a lot harder work from the caregiver, and in a world where folks are doing the least work for the greatest reward, where primary care appointments are limited to 5 minutes or less, individual treatment doesn't seem a reality

  15. "When behavior is only an expression of the problem. " thank you, this is really heart touching. People value others by only seeing their actions whilst the real issue resides within.

  16. Has anyone watching this thought about what he means by brain therapy which he so casually mentions? Since when have we had such therapy? Shouldn't that subject be given a higher priority than his diagnostic imaging?

  17. Hope this helps anyone in need. Prayer seems to almost always help me, especially when praying for those I don't want to pray for.

    "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" said Jesus.

  18. BUT – you have to have access to a psychiatrist. I’m a professional with a good career and health benefits and being treated by a psychiatrist is not that accessible to me, never mind someone who is homeless or can’t afford it. Mental healthcare needs to change and become accessible to every day people, but I despair that politicians will ever allow that to happen.

  19. What an amazing speaker
    Truly coming from a place where society can evolve from
    Love not hate we can never move forward with this way of thinking
    I wish that this man would do the brain scan of Nicholas Cruz

  20. "the implications are really much wider"
    So if we can bring a brain back from the edge then we can take it there as well.
    Or am I just being paranoid and need to get a scan to fix it?

  21. This is the best TED talk I ever saw. Screw the left agendas, and look at the truly meaningful things! I would say we need a yearly brain scan for every person.

  22. his is my 8 minute inspirational video about a positive treatment to heal mental health called D.T.M.S! This show also gives some inspiration on friendship and the positive affects of giving hugs!

  23. Could you imagine if this your dad?! Such wisdom can't even find words to express his expertise his thirst to learn goes on infinitely. Would love to enjoy life with someone like that.

  24. Officials at major psychiatric and neuroscience associations and research centers say his SPECT claims are no more than myth and poppycock, buffaloing an unsuspecting public.

    None of the nation’s most prestigious medical organizations in the field — including the APA, the National Institute of Mental Health, the American College of Radiology, the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging and the National Alliance on Mental Illness — validates his claims.

  25. Im all caught up in this issue. The winners are the pharmaceutical giants.
    It amazing to hear Psychiatrists never look at the Organ.

  26. I suffered a bad TBI in a motorcycle accident 7 years ago, and I can 100% vouch for being different and having difficulty in life. My mood has changed, I'm much angrier than I used to be, and I don't have as much excitement about life. Anyone know how to find these brain rehab treatments?

  27. My psychiatrist has been throwing darts in the dark at me. No medical tests of any kind ever. 15 minutes to summarize a plethora of thought and emotion every two months. Time to see a neuropsychiatrist.

  28. i want to know more of the criticisms… he's right seems like something 9yo's could think of, can't be as simple as that.,

  29. i think my mental illness comes from poor posture. i'm serious. our shoulders hunch and our heads hang low. i put together the pieces. i think schizophrenia comes from a disrupted connection where the brain makes contact with the body. like when people sleep. um hallucinations and positive symptoms. i don't know. it's a hypothesis from observations. public domain.

  30. Does anyone know more about this? Does insurance cover brain scans? Who do you have to see to get a brain scan? I’d definitely be interested in getting one just to see what’s going on, not that I have a glaring problem but for preventative measures. Any info would be great, obviously I’ll google as well.

  31. And……….how exactly do you change brains ?
    As most Humans seem to be engaged in the process of swapping their brains for those of Chimpanzees, it would be nice to know what exactly is going on.

  32. T.B.I here from a E.F.P.(IED). I like his approach. Hey VA lets do this!. People…..you need to love your injured love one. My whole family disowned me after my explosion. My mom said she didn't want to loose her beach rental. No family member came to see me…my Army fam…my real fam was there.

  33. Great talk… So true. Psychiatrists nowadays are often working like they’re back in Freud’s time. Guessing and guessing… Medicine has immensely evolved and yet we still don’t have a very good balance between abstract concepts and theory, AND concrete, testable science.

  34. This Blabber mouth found that Some of us humans actually have a functioning brain ….while others in the liberal ..so called democrat parry
    Appeared in the brain scans a nonfunctioning lump of what looks like pus with abnormal deformed tentacles and unknown deformitiites which appear as small oval shaped holes or cavities
    Within the cerebellum in both children and adults.
    A possible reaction to the dummied down educational instruction and lack of thought
    attributed to liberal brainwashing and phyobabble . .. more tests and evaluations will no doubt be required and research will have to be continued …..but at this point it has a rather
    Troubling forecast of what may come to fruition . More evaluations need to be performed at this juncture…in the very near future along with increases in the budget

    Stay tuned…….

  35. So what does this brain rehabilitation program imply. What do they actually do to the patients, specifically? Did I miss something?

  36. So it means that they are able to map active areas of the brain, but still don't understand how does brain works. Although environment shapes human behavior so it would be appropriate to investigate each and every individual environment along with brain scan. Fact that crime, jealousy, poverty, bigotry, language, etc. is not inborn things, all that is learned at environment and situations that people been exposed to.

  37. It was really great and such a smart iconoclast he is.I just wish he had explained a little how they get to change the structure and function of the brain; to what extent can prescribed drugs help?

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