Dee Woods: Brain imaging can reveal injury, disorders

By Dee Woods

Another hero of modern integrative psychiatry is Dr. Daniel Amen. I first saw him on a public television special and immediately sensed he was endowed with a gift of understanding and comprehension that helps him succeed where others may fail. Ten years ago he wrote the book, “Change your brain, change your life.”

How many people do you know who have sought treatment and were prescribed a succession of drugs, only to become more depressed or anxious? It’s going on everywhere.

In a recent interview with Dr. Joseph Mercola, Amen explained that medications are not always the answer to such problems. Amen uses a detection system known as SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) imaging, which is not a brain scan. SPECT allows him to see the function of and blood flow in the brain, as well as which part of the brain has been affected by injury or disorder.

Amen explained he has learned that certain affected parts of the brain indicate various deficiencies. This is important because it signals just what is missing and what must be replenished. Some disorders require serotonin, while others require melatonin, while yet others may require better nutrition. He treats each individual specifically. Each individual has specific needs — and not everyone needs Prozac or another SSRI.

In a study of 120 NFL players and retired players who sustained virtually thousands of hits to the head, SPECT imaging showed a great deal of brain damage. “On this program, 80 percent of them showed significant improvement, including boosting function and blood flow to the prefrontal cortex,” Amen said. “We’ve had this rash of NFL suicides, which just breaks my heart; because what they don’t know is that there is help available to them. That’s just very exciting.”

Amen insists the brain can be healed. He uses the word “neuroplasticity” to show positive brain changes can and do take place. For persons with emotional disorders, Amen examines SPECT imaging to check blood flow and determine what part of the brain may be affected. He targets treatment based on what SPECT finds. Many times, his treatment is as simple as adding 5-HTP, L-tryptophan, saffron or rhodiola, or he insists on exercise in conjunction with his treatment. Exercise can naturally increase serotonin levels, and he reminds patients the gut is the second brain with 95 percent of serotonin being produced there. He recommends keeping the gut healthy by maintaining good gut flora via diet and supplementation with a quality probiotic. But, he admits, there are times when drugs targeted to the specific disorder are helpful.

Amen also claims that SPECT imaging of the brains of persons on numerous and various drugs can reveal toxic substances. He points to a young man who was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder but actually was suffering from arsenic poisoning that manifested itself as ADD symptoms. The man’s symptoms were treated with drugs and no one looked for the root cause of his symptoms.

Visit There is a psychiatrist in Illinois, Robert G. Kohn, who treats patients as individuals and uses the SPECT system when necessary. Kohn is an assistant clinical professor of radiology at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Reach him a 5404 West Elm St. Pl, Ste Q, McHenry, IL 60050, (815) 344-7951, or fax him at (815) 759-3807.

I believe this issue is so important I will attempt to gather additional information on Kohn and write about his protocols of treatment.

Dee Woods is available to give presentations about alternative health treatments and healthy living. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .