Change Your Brain, Change Your Life by psychiatrist Daniel D. Amen is a non-fiction book based on the idea that brain functioning can be improved, and such improvement can drastically change lives for the better. Amen’s approach to healing the brain is based on more than 100,000 scans he and his colleagues have conducted at the Amen Clinics, a medical facility that adopts an integrated approach to brain health. Amen’s methodology centers on the pioneering use of brain imaging utilizing single photon emission computed tomography, or SPECT, as well as appropriate treatment and brain-boosting habits. The results of this approach are increased happiness and success, improved relationships, and greater levels of health.
The brain is the organ that governs every facet of human consciousness, including how we talk, feel, learn, create, move, relate, behave, and comprehend and respond to the world around us. To gain a clearer picture of brain function, some doctors and researchers use SPECT imaging to reveal brain activity and blood flow and create a comprehensive picture of the brain. Unlike an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or CT (computed tomography) scan, SPECT imaging shows where there’s either too much or too little activity in the different sectors of the brain. SPECT analysis also shows whether or not there has been a traumatic brain injury or infection that’s harming the brain. Patients who suffer from certain medical conditions, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and attention deficit disorder (ADD), can visually see where they are deficient and learn how to address their specific brain needs through medication and supplements, as well as psychological, behavioral, and spiritual interventions. Blanket diagnoses often do not work because they don’t take the individual’s specific conditions into account; frequently, there are overlapping problems in different areas of the brain. SPECT analysis has yielded several subsets of various conditions. For example, there are seven types of anxiety and depression, six types of addiction, and five types of overeating.
Having a visual picture of a healthy brain can inspire “brain envy” and encourage patients to be proactive about adopting new behaviors and approaches that will have a lasting impact on their brain, which in turn improves health, relationships, and overall quality of life.
Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, a New York Times bestseller, was first published by Harmony Press in 1999.
The main key takeaways for this book are:
- Using SPECT imaging helps decrease the stigma associated with a range of conditions, such as depression and compulsive thinking, by understanding them through a medical rather than a moral framework.
- By taking responsibility for our brain health, we can increase brain reserves to combat the natural aging process and address other health conditions.
- There are four circles of brain health that should be addressed in every patient: biological, psychological, social, and spiritual. This integrated approach helps ensure that patients will be treated holistically.
- The limbic system (LS) sets an emotional tone, stores highly charged memories, and promotes bonding. Signs of LS imbalance include excessive sadness and pessimism.
- The basal ganglia (BG) system helps integrate feelings, thoughts, and movement and is involved in forming habits. Signs of BG imbalance include anxiety and a habit of expecting the worst.
- The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is the most evolved part of the brain and acts as an executive decision-maker, invoking logic, planning skills, and impulse control. Signs of PFC imbalance include short attention span, poor judgment, disconnection from emotion, and ADD.
- The anterior cingulate gyrus (ACG) is responsible for flexibility and adaptability. Signs of ACG imbalance include worrying, being stuck in the past, and obsessive or compulsive thoughts.
- The temporal lobes (TL) rule long-term memories, language, and social cues. Signs of TL imbalance include aggression, violent thoughts, and emotional instability.