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)



    Exactly that's what I always say to people,how doctors or psychiatrists can prescribe us those anti depressants without even looking at our brains,this concept always made me super uncomfortable and made me question the efficacy of these medications plus ofcourse the 1000z of side effects they comes with … brain scans should now be mandatory for any person dealing with anxiety ,depression or any other mental disease coz anything medication related to brain can surely effects your whole system.Well I totally forgot about how expensive these procedures can be ,2ndly I guess the radiations arent safe either ..but still it's better to look at the scans and the symptoms together to provide better assistance

  2. Lavern Adalim says:


  3. Nathan Samuel Unger says:


  4. Madison Deforest says:

    What exactly does he do to help get the brain back to normal? What are the steps. Anyone know!?

  5. sarah deason says:

    I wonder how things have progressed in this arena since the time of this talk … Wonder what a scan of recent El Paso and Ohio shooters would reveal .. This is compelling information ..
    I will be wanting to know where and if these discoveries are being utilized in todays psychiatric practices, or if they are being blocked by big pharma, etc …

  6. pa h says:

    all good and well. but who will pay for it. most people that end up in jail, on the streets dont have health insurance. even me with my Tricare from the military, all they did was pump me full of crazy meds.

  7. Roselee Lauper says:

    Let's add cranial sacral massage and myofascial release to this study!!! I am a LMT in PA. It releases tension, creates blood flow, & releases headaches. Helping the fascia become functionable in restricted areas of stress is key! We are only beginning to understand the role of fascia.

  8. suni daye says:

    Wow this is fascinating

  9. Jakilyn Scisney says:

    I wish I could meet this guy..

  10. Shervin M.- says:

    It's funny how the moment someone (a doctor) finds a way to actually cure the sick the general public (of other doctors) call him out for being a fraud and other similar things simply because they feel threatened by the fact that someone has found a way to cure the sick rather than continuesly charge and abuse the patients for income by claiming there is no permanent cure.

    Results speak louder than claims.

  11. archana Sahu says:

    How much brain could get affected if hit by something (without bleeding) on the right side of brain.

  12. uncle bob says:

    Wow this was an amazing ted talk. Brought tears to my eyes.

  13. Jalissa Jones says:

    Just goes to show you that common sense and logic are a thing of the past! He clearly points out how important scans are to his field of medicine but people choose not to believe.

  14. JP says:

    'Psychiatry has the potential to change lives for the better'. Potential being the important word here. Unfortunately it is mostly used to sell drugs, figure out how to manipulate populations and programme the masses to do the bidding of the social engineering psychopaths that run this planet. Imaging is dangerous, we know relatively nothing about how the brain operates and isolate it as the operational center ignoring the rest of the nervous system – which is equally as influential on health.

  15. John Williams says:

    Good talk until we find out that he helped his nephew into employment or slavery so that he could pay taxes to the mob so they can afford more wars and ruin soldierโ€™s brains. Gives him more ruined brains to scan I suppose.

  16. Uxval Gochez / Arte Aurora Barcelona says:

    I love this dude, how do I get in one of his programs?

  17. Greg Vasquez says:

    a step in the right direction!

  18. Pharmer David says:

    I had my brain badly damaged by using Trazedone, a tricyclic antidepressant. My regular doc prescribed it for insomnia and depression: insomnia is an off-label use, and he had no business treating depression, but he meant well. After almost a year of use, I finally read the insert that came with the drug, and was horrified. I then quit cold-turkey, because I missed the part telling us to NOT stop taking it abruptly. I then got dementia so bad it seemed like my life was over, but thanks to medicinal cannabis I didn't give up. While cannabis can make it difficult to think logically, if you have dementia it actually helps. I take "ginkgo biloba" and "lions mane" (mushroom) to help heal my brain, along with other herbs and super-foods. Medicinal cannabis can help repair the brain after a stroke, so somehow it helps heal the brain. Not sure if it's the THC, CBD, or more likely – a combination of cannabinoids (entourage effect) working synergistically together which heals the brain. Psycniatrists are dangerous, as are most allopaths. Be your own doctor, and let food be your medicine. Rather than recommending you take your health-care providers advice, I caution against that, and encourage you to do your own research. After all, only you know how you feel, and you care more about yourself than a healthcare provider, many ( most?) of whom just want your money.

  19. Garry Gosnell says:

    Wow, this is awesome and as a Nuclear medicine technologist, I wish was actually more utilized.

  20. xiang GarbyaL says:

    " 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 generation to come." Dr. Daniel amen ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

  21. Aria Mi says:

    Reminds me of my Cog Psych class ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. Richard Dohotariu says:

    did he do a ct scan or mri scan?

  23. Kenneth Albert says:

    Why is this not news everywhere.
    This was 6YEARS AGO!

  24. Brett Hayvice says:

    But how does he repair the brain? I understand the cyst removal but how did he reverse degenerative brain disease and physical damaged brain?

  25. Sand Mojito says:

    Damn, guys, he doesnโ€™t even have scientific publications, the whole scientific community considers him like a charlotte, he wrote more books than a business trainer, he already has a network of clinics, and a scan costs $ 3,500. And what kind of brain restoration program does he use, what kind of nonsense? Ted disrespect to you, for advertising charlotte

  26. The O.K. Corral says:

    That everyone HAD A BRAIN?????


  27. americkanhoney says:

    This is all very encouraging for those who have access to doctors that care and they ability to pay for it. But not so much otherwise.

  28. Jenny Wadsworth says:

    amazing!!! i have no words… just tears. Thank you!

  29. BELFAST COWBOY says:

    you sir are a legend!! more doctors needed like you.

  30. Matthew Skelton says:

    Iโ€™ve had a couple of head injuries. Iโ€™m curious as to what my brain scan would look like. Does anybody know where to get one?

  31. Matthew Skelton says:

    Iโ€™ve had a couple of head injuries. Iโ€™m curious as to what my brain scan would look like. Does anybody know where to get one?

  32. Jonathan Locke says:

    5k psychiatrists are worried they will be out of work.

  33. carol claassen says:

    With over 9 million views I am wondering why this isn't a nationwide viral movement to help so many troubled youth in our country who need these scans! Thank you Daniel Amen!

  34. Fitness Alliance International says:

    How can I get a SPECT scan?

  35. J F says:

    Transcendental meditation improves the brain check it

  36. Lance Meyer says:

    Dain bramage!

  37. IceColdKilax says:

    @10:05 Is the most important thing. You are welcome.

  38. Kristi Beverley says:

    I was waiting to hear about the "Brain Smart" program.

  39. Helene Piffard says:

    WOW! THAT'S BRILLIANT & ABOUT TIME! ๐Ÿ‘พ๐Ÿ‘พ๐Ÿ‘พ๐Ÿ‘พ๐Ÿ‘พ๐Ÿ‘พ

    I HEAR ABOUT PEOPLE BEING. MISDIAGNOSED OFTEN๐Ÿ‘พ๐Ÿ‘พ๐Ÿ‘พ๐Ÿ‘พ๐Ÿ‘พ๐Ÿ‘พ๐Ÿ‘พ๐Ÿ‘พ๐Ÿ‘พ๐Ÿ‘พ๐Ÿ‘พ๐Ÿ‘พ๐Ÿ‘พ๐Ÿ‘พ๐Ÿ‘พ


  40. Lynne Bishop says:

    Too bad the scans are so expensive and insurance won't cover unless you meet specific criteria

  41. Madonna Thiner says:

    It is the ethical responsibility of a psychologist making a diagnostic assessment to rule out reasonable medical possibilities related to biological or physiological symptoms by reviewing a pre-physical evaluation prior to eval. This is especially true if they are licensed to prescribe. In this role , they actually may review brain scans so I contradict. I do agree though with the psychopharmacology impacts you discuss, no debate needed. These needs are individualized based on client medical and mental health history.. These medications are life saving, making positive changes, to many with mental health and psychiatric disorders. Good talk. Thanks.

  42. L J says:

    what about narcissists, good for billion scans

  43. De Lesprie says:

    Dr Amen, have you been able to help the brain of a Bi-Polar person?

  44. Jamie Gallo says:

    Fascinating, I would love to meet him in person and discuss for hours.

  45. Maria Chrostowski says:

    Many psychiatrists Along with the government are not interested in helping to improve peopleโ€™s brain.

  46. Maria Chrostowski says:

    This is intelligence.

  47. Starlyn Lichtsinn says:

    Has he been a guest on Rogan?

  48. Kim Handley says:

    I'm looking to get a brainscan. I type in brainscan UK and it comes up as MRI scan. Is an MRI scan a brain scan? I know it scans the body and brain but is this the one I should find – MRI Scan?

  49. Felix Galea says:

    This is the future (why not now?) of psychiatry

  50. airamona says:


  51. The New Testament Activists says:

    Brain is a seat for the spirit that sealed in it. If you wanna to get rid of cancer or protection from mass shootings or accident deaths then you must break the seal of your brain & remove the spirit from the brain & instead replace with good spirit & seal again the brain.

    This is like a transplant of body organ to enhance life & called Mind or Spirit or Consciousness Transplant.

  52. The Dark Knight says:


  53. Annette Hall says:

    For $3500 dollars my son got a brain scan and recommendations for medications. I felt like they were not totally experienced at what they were doing and we drove 5 hours home with my son thinking his brain was defective. I don't know much about this brain rehabilitation that he speaks about and read his book before going. This was the Atlanta, GA location.

  54. Pepe says:

    Enough. I will force my doctor to send me for a brain scan.

  55. manuel nukmndi says:

    I wonder if you can improve yourself knowing how is your brain?

  56. Max S. says:

    4:00 Human brain during a seizure. Symptoms include delusions of purchasing Greenland.

  57. Matt Pineda says:

    Its almost as if people are ready to consider opening up psychology as a concreted-understanding, into a less closed off series of re-runs. It'd be nice when agendas were fullfilled that inflictions could be mended, as well. What about beyond psychological dimming and more into intelligent explorations?

  58. Matt Pineda says:

    7:06 Was he forced to view things entirely too logically?

  59. Matt Pineda says:

    Finally, i have no problem with the 'facts and evidence' shown, however I'd also like to know more for research. Do you mind citing the examination reports discussed here?

  60. Matt Pineda says:

    Average psychologists reaponse to 'hybridized brain function': "fairytale" you show symtpoms of 'x' (etc) but are not difinable by these symptoms.
    "Truth" why get examined by lesser qualified brain activity.

  61. Michael Nguyendon says:

    What does the brain rehabilitation program look like?

  62. Dr-Stephen Newdell says:

    I'd like to know, after such good clinical science WHY anyone in the medical profession would object to this important work. It was a grand dissertation and Thank you. Dr. Stephen Newdell

  63. Martie Flagg says:

    Will insurance companies cover brain scans?

  64. Human Beingg says:

    I love him. I could really see his passion for his work through his speaking while watching the video. I will be following him and his work. Great video!

  65. Dawn Garcia says:

    I wonder what a brain intensive rehabilitation program includes? Medication, therapy, diet?

  66. Akuma says:

    Can you FIX a narcissist Female? If I look at her brain scans. I need to help her

  67. Pancakebut says:

    so are we not going to talk about the treatment?

  68. geoff dick says:

    Okay so how is it done?

  69. Tarun Rawat says:

    Watched it for the first time.. now.. to those 5k people.. 5k ๐Ÿ–•

  70. Ryan Ambrose says:

    Not scientific but sciencey.

  71. kurtis howard says:

    He's selling the brain training methods. Charlatan if ever I saw one,selling the new miracle medication in a bottle .Hes telling people what they want to hear;it's not your fault, it's damage to the brain.We can fix even criminals๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿ˜‚.

  72. Lidia says:

    Had an MRI scan done two weeks ago – all is well. He is awesome. Just like any other organ in the body the physical brain should get checked on.

  73. Rush Simonson says:

    Let me guess, he sold the patent and program to Bayer and its available for only $100,000 for a 6 week treatment.

  74. David Garcia says:

    This man is a hero, he saved that boys life and maybe several others indirectly

  75. Michael Rockwell says:

    OK, now what?

  76. tray the truth says:

    A M E N

  77. icecreamlady driver says:

    The real major cause of most drug and alcohol abuse and homelessness is emotional trauma in the early life of a child. Too many parents separate their children from themselves both emotionally and physically. This messes with the mind and even the actual brain. Children need tender love and kindness and not separation and never left to cry for long periods of time. Too much fear and anxiety in those first few years of life causes physical changes in the brain as the adrenals pump out too much of the stress hormone, cortisol which messes with the brain development and development of other organs putting stress on them and damaging them.

  78. Rupert Migtau says:

    Iโ€™m just a little worried, what bad things you can do by executing brain manipulation, if the right tools come into the wrong hands, so to say.

  79. C_ Farther says:

    Why doesn't every consumer, every medical psychiatrist and psychologist know all this information. He is exactly right, look at the brain and know how to treat. What a brilliant individual.

  80. nirajsd1 says:

    Baseless. Just like some stock market technical analyst show you selective charts to prove their theory. Scanning may be useful in the future with advancement in the technology, but not with SPECT.

  81. Sofie says:


  82. Matthew Jones says:

    how do i get involved with these guy. i want to help others get better
    with this sort of medical help

  83. ATMorons Gaming says:

    I suffer from Depression and anxiety, and I played football for 6 years, receiving one concussion that I'm aware of. I'm a little terrified to see what my scan would look like.

  84. Lisa Moore says:

    As a survivor of a very serious brain injury…I am am soooooo grateful to see this video! I want to learn more about this.

  85. swander says:

    Why do I always smell the dollar with these guys. It's all about the dollar.I could be wrong.

  86. Joseph Kram says:

    This message needs to spread like wild fire.

  87. Shadow747 says:

    This looks a shrink i wouldnt mind going to at all

  88. Marzanam Munira says:

    why am i so lazy? is there a cyst in my brain?

  89. Dj Tsukiyomi says:

    Aaah yes Amen Clinics I did a brain scan there a few years ago it helped me learn a lot about myself.

  90. orangeblueand lavendar says:

    That's a good point maybe we should have some imaging done

  91. Jemima C says:

    What I want to know is how on earth does an 18 yr old get to own their own home? Surely he didnโ€™t do that all by himself?

  92. Frankie Teague says:

    Bet O.J. wishes he had met you a long time ago.

  93. CUCU CUCU says:

    We all are siners,but God so loved the world that He gave His only son Jesus Christ,that whoever believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life
    Jesus Christ willingly died on cross ,had buried and raise from dead after 3 days,to we can live firver together

  94. leon ham says:


  95. Louise Tallman says:

    I'm not sure I heard "how" they change the brain? With certain medications, therapy, etc? I am watching this 6 years after it was presented. I'm wondering what advances have been made in this method of using scans to diagnose? It is my hope that the process has continued to help others I wish for an update. Louise

  96. Thunder Bee says:

    Now thatโ€™s an awesome uncle

  97. GM Jones says:

    Whoa…. This is frightening. And this was in 2013! Nothing has changed!

  98. Christinna's Creations says:

    WOW ๐Ÿ‘€!
    Luv yah ๐Ÿ’•

  99. Barney says:

    I've been cracked on the skull twice in my life, but good luck getting family doctor's to let me get checked out, and yes, i have a really useless short term memory

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