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)

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

  1. Something this simple could have so many lives from all the shootings in America. Wish people would realise that brain scans should be affordable and not be so money grabbing. Sad they have a price on a people’s lives.
    Brain scans should be compulsory at certain ages for everyone. We could save thousands of lives so easily.

  2. Dr.Daniel ,
    you are proud about your work and I agree with that but why dont you say about the risks of your research when special services which serve the politicians governs use your discoveryes to dominate public mass ? Many social conflicts start from a button and also when the job its done well they finished them from the same place …
    Plus sir , our brains are not designed to pay taxes which make a batter life for parliaments people or gouvenants !

  3. I forget to say about criminals behavoiours and genetic code that the real problem its there in the agresivity genes which aparently are much numerous than to the other peoples !
    And its wellknown that our brain structure its configurate at the first 9 nine month woomb life by our genetic heritage !
    In my oppinion a criminal its like a poissined snake ! He could change his skin but never his venom !

  4. Better not to play with Brain Because if we can convert a criminal to civilized person, we can convert civilized person to a criminal, and people will see violence and dead everywhere.

  5. I love this talk; I’ve watched it multiple times and every time, I learn new fascinating facts about our brain complexity and potential.

  6. Wellbutrin caused seizures and subsequently a TBI, But I then started to paint 2015 And i have just joined a gallery and have begun to sell my work

  7. Makes me so sad. My grandma gos to VA Phyc unit.She is a vet who is 94yrs Old. At the VA old & young mixed together in the phyc Ward …no geriatric specialty psychiatry going on there,or scan technology, their old computer system can't connect to other hospitals to get accurate data about their vets. The social worker called it a " time capsule"…How I wish the VA could do scans for vets! My friend's son who is a vet has had 3 of his vet friends commit suicide. Very sad.

  8. DANIEL PLEASE HELP ME GET A SMART BRAIN PROGRAM AND TREATMENT BECAUSE I MIGHT JUST CHANGE MY MIND ON OTHER NEGATIVE VIEWS OF THE MALPRACTICE AND THE MISUSE OF PSYCHADELUC DRUG TESTING ON PATIENTS WHO REALLY DID NOT NEED THEM JUST BECAUSE THEY WERE NOT LISTENED TO AND BELIEVED PLACES LUKE THE ONE I WAS FALSELY PLACED IN BY INDIVIDUALS TO 5150 FACILITIES JUST TO HAVE PHARMACEUTICAL TRIALS JAMMED AND FORCED DOWN THIER THROATS WHEN THEY REALLY DIS NOT KNOW THAT THEY WOULD BE ADDICTED TO THEM AND FROM ANY REACH OF TAKING THEM UNLESS THEY COMMITTED SUICIDAL AND DISLIKABLE ACTS UPON THMSELVES OR HARM TO THIER BODIES JUSTS TO BE SENT BACK TO THOSE PLACES …… i will only speak to you personally if you are for real and if you really want to change and save lives like i do. and i have tons of data for you . i love psychology and i wanted to be a psychiatrist myself but but never finished only you have a passion and only you can probably help me help you to help them and others like like me thank you daniel and god bless your new form of sight …..,,

  9. Sounds like an infomercial – we offer a simple solution (that no other doctors have thought of) to your life threatening problems. Get a brain scan now and the second is for free.

  10. Wow! That was a powerful speech. When was the last time my brain had a check-up? What might people see if they actually looked?

  11. Some people have complained that it's been 6 years since this talk and not much or nothing has changed. I'd like to agree, but I think Mr Amen meant more than only scanning patients' brains.
    He kept making a strong case for some scanning-based treatment better than the usual drugs and therapy… and what I understood at the end is that such treatment is extracting brain tumors or other deformities, brain surgery.
    If many people still wanted to follow such procedure psychiatrists would be limited to referring patients to brain surgeons if therapies and drugs have failed. But, again, since some people here claim not much has changed it figures that most people decline to follow through with Dr Amen's ideas, not really surprising as great as they sound.

  12. incredible, moving and we need corruption i.e big pharma, health insurance kicked out of the ballpark to enable us to develop this idea into the mainstream NOW.

  13. ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT!!!This is why I got into the field of addiction and recovery mother of my child passed due to alcoholism and would wish that loss on nobody and if I could do anything to prevent and educate that families could live a healthier preventive life.
    Be blessed to all!

  14. I AM A PATIENT OF DR.AMEN AND HE SAVED MY LIFE AND HELP ME BE A BETTER FATHER AND HUSBAND! I had a football Injury and got hit in the head with a baseball bat I suffered from Addiction depression ,anxiety ,and ADHD! He saved my life.

  15. The “Amens” are psychopathic profiteers who never reveal any authentic thought they haven’t modified to placate their narcissism.

  16. Don’t be fooled into transcranial stimulation. You’ll have permanent tinnitus and never enjoy a crowd or concert again with the brain sensitivity it causes.

  17. Thanks for this! My doctor ordered my brain scan last year after I couldn’t shake severe depression. My brain is different. Lots of scar tissue from lifelong abuse that began when I was about 8. I’ve been through addictions, homelessness, more downs than ups.

    It was only when I learned this did not make me a bad person, that it made me wiser and more introspective, that I can deal with it. The sadness very rarely ever goes away- it’s always there not far beneath the surface- so I make sure to face it. I make sure to openly feel that rage, hurt, sadness, and so on. I face it without chemicals and I cry when I have to. It’s all that helps me not to lash out and misdirect my inner woes onto others. And instead of writing the typical fiction I used to, i now write of things close to my heart. I now write of overcoming human adversity.

  18. People like Amen are the kinds of people that make me hate TEDx talks. The reason nothing has been done even though this has been out since 2013 is because there's no scientific evidence that his methods work. He's very convincing here, using emotional hooks like school shootings and anecdotal successes stories, but notice no mention of hard scientific data on the success rate of his program. Also note that he SELLS brain scans and treatment programs, so he has a vested interest. I'm not trying to say he's wrong, it's possible his treatment methods are effective, but what I am trying to say is that you should properly look into it yourself instead of blindly believing him just because he's charismatic and has some credentials.

  19. with this imaging do you think you could help the football players with multiple concussions? also you should look into (for the same symptoms) battered woman and prostitutes with pimps has anyone ever thought of this?

  20. Excellent speech and valuable information The question is, what is medical society doing in the United States to promote that all doctors perform this type of brain test?

  21. This is the single most important video I've ever watched on this platform, and it infuriates me how brain scans are not the instantaneous first step in treating mental illness, coupled with the cost preventing so many from starting down the road to actual answers.

  22. Scratch that. The entire medical community in the United States should be ashamed of themselves for not all fighting for this. All the medical system and doctors care about is making money they don't care about getting anyone healthier.

  23. Daniel I think you are truly on point with this. Suffering from depression as I do, I would feel better equipped in helping to work and deal with it, if I had all the focused facts.
    My memory takes a massive hit, where I've seen other ppl not having the same symptoms able to recall things without issue. This symptom leaves me feeling more anxious and in turn burdened with very low self esteem.
    Targeted images are a must when dealing with mental health.

  24. Psychiatrists doing scans is groundbreaking and has great potential! Good man!

    👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

  25. 100% we should all get them done Every few years for all of our lives its a amazing insight into ourselves and eventually the way we treat each other

  26. isWhy this psychiatrist yelling at me? Moreover why does he seem kinda elitist? More-moreover Why am I listening to someone state the obvious?

  27. One of the best of TEDx.
    It's the real need of modern world to combat the major problems of modern world…
    Corruption
    Terrorism
    Increasing the pace of development.
    Increasing the mind capabilities for rising the power as a human species to combat the space race as a human species.
    To be placed ahead as a civilization on Earth, Moon, and Mars…

  28. They now have brain scans of Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) or its full acronym DJTDS. Oddly, the letters C N N are imprinted on their brains. Only full frontal lobotomy cured these patients ostensibly due to them forgetting every lie CNN every broadcast to them. Kidding obviously 🙄

    On a serious note, this is revolutionary. Advances in AI combined with brain scan imagery could absolutely bring mental health diagnostics to a new level. You still need psychiatry and psychology, since recovery solutions are many times multifaceted. Very interested in the topic.

  29. This type of scan would probably help me. My thinking is supper fast then it gets foggy on bad days. I sometimes forget important stuff and my speech alternates from bad to just ok to slurred and repetitive.

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