Ep.92: Enhance Your Brain Interview with Dr. Daniel Amen
It’s time to discover how to achieve optimal brain health! Dr. Daniel Amen, a brain expert, joins us today. Dr. Amen has helped millions of people change their brains and lives through his health clinics, best-selling books, products and public television programs. He is one of America’s leading psychiatrists and brain health leaders. He has authored or coauthored 70 professional articles and more than 30 books, including New York Times mega-bestseller Change Your Brain, Change Your Life. He has appeared on numerous television shows including Dr. Phil, Larry King, Dr. Oz, The Doctors, and The View.
His breakthrough public television programs on brain and mental health have made him well loved by millions of viewers seeking guidance on memory, attention, other cognitive functions, emotional issues, behavior, and more.
Listen and learn how to take your brain to the next level!
LINKS AND RESOURCES:
Attend Dr. Amen’s free seminar: Click Here
Learn more from Dr. Amen: Website
Read his book Memory Rescue: Click Here
Robyn: Hi, VIBE listeners. It’s Robyn Openshaw and welcome back. I’ve been, gosh, close to a month in Switzerland. I went there for three weeks of liver detoxing. We had dozens and dozens of our followers come over and spend between one and two weeks there in the clinic of biological medicine that I discovered about eight years ago on a research tour. Our page is available to sign up for next year. When I announced this in the fall, when we do a Webinar on it, it will sell out in less than a week. I could pretty much guarantee you that that’s what happened last year and our audience is only growing. We’re going to tell half a million people about it in the fall, so if you’re interested in it now, look in the show notes today for the link to sign up for next year’s liver detox in the Swiss Alps.
I had them take my live blood analysis where you look at a drop of live blood under a high powered microscope and a medical doctor who is very well versed in what you can see in a drop of live blood, told me some crazy things about my blood. And it wasn’t pretty when I first got there, from traveling, and I don’t know that I had been quite taking care of myself the way I should in the weeks leading up to going. And after three weeks of detoxifying, eating a really clean, mostly vegetables, but delicious, three meals a day, served by a Michelin rated chef, treatments, nutrient IV’s. So many different things to rehabilitate my health and get some R&R time. I spent lots of time with people, ate three meals a day with them.
At the end of three weeks, my blood looked so beautiful that she said this is textbook healthy blood. And she even said it looks better than her own blood work. Dr Petra, who is the MD that heads the clinic and lives a very, very clean lifestyle. So I was really pleased at the visuals of what my blood looked like after three weeks of practically perfect lifestyle and diet. And so I love those visuals. They’re very motivating. I came back with supplements from my doctor there. She’s really my only doctor. It might seem weird to you that the only doctor I see is halfway across the world, but since I go every year and since I trust her so much, I really let her manage my healthcare. Luckily all my healthcare at this point is preventative and I’d like to keep it that way.
I think in October, I’m going back there with my daughter who was diagnosed a few years ago with Lyme disease. She’s healthy. She’s well. She just graduated college, but she probably has some TBI from being a MVP high school soccer player, which we’re going to learn about in today’s episode. We’re talking to one of the world’s greatest experts on traumatic brain injury and brain health in general. Very excited to introduce him to you here in just a minute.
But I’m taking my daughter back for about three weeks in October. So if you want to go, because you want someone English speaking to hang out with there, if you’re wanting significant treatment, like three weeks, my daughter and I are going to be there probably the first three weeks in October. So see if you can get a spot. They are filling up for months in advance just because people through my podcast and blog, have learned what great work they’re doing there. So if you’d like to come with us, see if you can get a spot in October, maybe we can at least overlap a little bit and spend some time together.
But I’m going to get my daughter treated for her Lyme disease even though she’s healthy and well, she knows that she’s going to have to keep her toxic load low for life. She’s going to have to do preventative things. She’s going to have to be more vigilant about her health than maybe most people because her body is in this constant fight with spirochete antibodies from being bitten by several ticks.
Just getting back, I was really excited to see that we finally lined up my friend Dr Daniel Amen. He is a medical doctor, he’s a psychiatrist, double board certified. He’s an award winning researcher and he’s written 10 New York Times bestselling books on the brain. He really has challenged the paradigm of psychiatry.
I’ve read one of his books, I think it’s been published in many, many languages and it’s on its fourth edition now. It’s called, “Change your Brain, Change your Life”. And he’s got eight clinics. Four of them on the west coast and four of them on the east coast. And in the interview I had mentioned several sort of wellness author, Internet celebrity friends of mine who have been to his clinic and got brain scans and been treated at one of the Amen clinics.
I’m going to take both of my daughters there and get our brains checked out. Both of my daughters were competitive soccer players for many, many years. I didn’t know better. We’ll talk a little bit about that. We’ll talk a little bit about what Dr. Amen has to say about the sports that we put our children in. Because everybody says to him, they say it to me too. “Oh, we can’t protect our children from anything”. He took that issue right on and said some very clear things about the level of acceptable risk for the activities that we put our children in and what our responsibility is as parents.
So I hope that you come with us to Switzerland. Look in the show notes or ask one of my staff by messaging the Green Smoothie Girl page on Facebook. Sign up early if you want to come June 2nd, 9th, or 16th. I highly recommend if you can to stay for two weeks. You can just get a lot deeper healing done in two weeks. You’ll go through a liver cleanse and a liver and gallbladder flush towards the end of your first week. And then you’ll do more detailed, diagnostics and treatment in your second week. But check it out on the show notes page and come with me to Switzerland in 2019 if it’s in the cards for you, June 2nd, 9th and 16th.
So welcome to the VIBE show, Dr. Daniel Amen.
Dr. Amen: Thank you so much.
Robyn: Well, I’m really excited to talk to you today about the brain because there’s so much emerging research. I don’t think there’s anybody out there who has a better pulse on it. You’re doing such different things than standard of care psychiatry does. Let’s start there. How did you sort of go off the path of how most psychiatrists are treating mental health issues? Taking a look at the brain and actually what the brain looks like? Will you tell a little bit about your story of why you’re doing such a very different practice than most?
Dr. Amen: So a very long time ago, I was an Infantry Medic and that’s where my love of medicine was born. But about a year into it, I realized I didn’t like being shot at or sleeping in the mud. So 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?” And I loved that. And when I got out of the Army in 1975 and I went to college and then medical school, when I was a second year medical student, someone I love tried to kill herself.
And I took her to see a wonderful psychiatrist. I came to realize if he helped her, which he did, it wouldn’t just help her, it would help her family for generations to come. So I fell in love with psychiatry because I realized it had the possibility to change generations of people. But I joined the only medical profession that never looks at the organ it treats. And I just thought that was odd and wrong.
And so I began advocating to my professors: “Why don’t we look? The brain is obviously our organ.” And they’re like, “Well, it’s not what we do.” And I’m like, “Well, let’s do something different then.” And in 1988, I started looking at the brain with a study called Quantitative EEG, looking at the electrical activity in the brain. And then in 1991, I went to a lecture on brain SPECT imaging. SPECT is the study we do at our eight Amen clinics and it just changed everything in my life.
I got these beautiful 3D images of brain function and I’m like, psychiatrists should do this. You know, why would we ever be the only medical specialty that never looks at the organ it treats. And I got no end of grief from it, but quite frankly I didn’t care because if you don’t look, you don’t know, and you should stop lying about that. And I thought we needed to be like a real medical specialty.
I mean, if you think about it, every other medical specialty, looks. If you have chest pain, they’re going to look at your heart. If you have belly pain, they’ll look at your gut. If you have back pain, they’re going to look at your bones. I mean if you have depression, somebody should be looking at your brain. And so that one idea lead to, um, we have a database now, of 140,000 scans on patients from 120 countries. And so we’re very excited about what we do and we’re trying to change how psychiatric medicine is practiced by adding imaging. Which then really leads to brain health because you realize if your brain’s not healthy, you’re more likely to suffer with anxiety, depression, obsessions, relationship problems, work problems, and so on.
Robyn: Yeah. I’m planning to bring both of my daughters, to your clinic because they were soccer players all the way through the end of high school. One of them was offered a bunch of soccer scholarships and we decided to go with an academic scholarship. And I’m really glad she did because I don’t think I had the awareness until I read some of your work, including “Change your Brain, Change your Life”, which I think has been through a few editions now. I don’t think I realized, you know, I was keeping my sons out of contact football and I was quite proud of myself for doing that, since their father was a college offensive lineman,that was no small task, their uncle played in the NFL.
But I didn’t realize that my daughters heading the ball could give them TBI’s. One of my daughters, now has Lyme disease. And I really want to bring the both of them out there and see what their brains look like. And together work on our brains.
I’ve had several friends who have gone to the Amen clinics and gotten the SPECT scan done, including Bree Argetsinger, the Betty Rocker online. I know you helped JJ Virgin with her son Grant with his car accident and severe brain injury. Carol Tuttle here locally, very, very well known influencer. And just last night I was listening to a podcast with Chalene Johnson talking about how going to your clinic she learned that her brain was 20 years older than it should be. And this is a fitness professional. And she says that you talk about her case and show the before and after pictures of her brain.
So I thought it would be great to tell us a little bit about what kinds of things you see in the SPECT scan and what kinds of things someone like Chalene, if you talk about her case and you have permission to talk about her case publicly, what did she do?
Dr. Amen: So SPECT looks at blood flow and activity. It looks at how your brain works. And it basically tells us three things: Good activity. Too little or Too much. And then our job is to balance it. If it’s working too hard, we want to calm it down. If it’s not working hard enough, we want to stimulate it.
And I did Chalene’s podcast. And at the end of the podcast she says: “You think I have ADD, don’t you?” And I’m like, “No, I know you have ADD.” And so we had fun. And she came to see us. She has a family history of Alzheimer’s disease and she was 46 when she first came to see us and we could already see evidence. So she had ADD for sure, which we could see on her scans. But, you could also see tendencies toward early Alzheimer’s disease. And that horrified her.
And she just did everything I asked her to do. And brain health is really super simple. It’s care about your brain, avoid anything that hurts it and do things that help it. So you just have to know the lists. And uh, she got obsessed in a good way with her brain. And she took specific supplements, Omega 3 fatty acids, a multiple vitamin, a brain boost that I developed called “Brain and Memory Power Boost”, and she did hyperbaric oxygen. She worked on optimizing her gut. And two years later we did a follow up scan. Her brain is fuller, fatter, healthier. Now it’s as beautiful as she is.
And I’m so excited. I mean, that’s really the message of my life, and the mission of my life, which is you’re not stuck with the brain you have, you can make it better. And I can prove it with the imaging work we do.
Robyn: Well, it’s really exciting that we can make changes and improve the health of our brain because I think we’re all terrified by watching our elders sort of disappear from us. And so you’re doing really important work in the world. Talk a little bit about what are some of the things that you see people doing commonly their lifestyle, their diet that hurt the brain.
Dr. Amen: You know, my wife Tana and I wrote a book called “The Brain Warrior’s Way” and it’s called that because we absolutely believe you’re in a war for the health of your brain. From the cheap toxic food that we are feeding people around this nation. Um, I published two studies that showed as your weight goes up, the physical size and function of your brain goes down. And so the toxic food is probably number one. Allowing kids to hit soccer balls with their head or play tackle football.
Um, now I think America is beginning to wake up to that the brain is soft, about the consistency of soft butter. Your skull is really hard and has sharp bony ridges, that mild traumatic brain injuries ruin people’s lives and nobody knows about it. Um, because of the advent of video games, people are not going outside as much. So our vitamin D levels are dropping. That’s bad for the brain. We’re not exercising as much. That’s bad for the brain. Um, it just seems like so many things, we’re going the wrong way when it comes to brain health.
And uh, you know, I just finished filming my 13th public television special about brain health. And I’m so excited because they’ve done really great. But America needs this message, that your brain runs everything you do. And when it works right, you work right. And when it doesn’t you are going to have trouble in your life. And so we have to have more love, care and respect, which means we treat it better.
You know, marijuana is now legal in 26 states, and I’m actually a fan of making it legal because please don’t put potheads in jail. That’s just stupid. But let’s not say it’s good for you because it’s clearly not. When you look at the scans we do for people who are smoking a fair amount of marijuana, it’s just not good and it’s not the smoke, it’s the marijuana.
Robyn: Yeah. I think that the marijuana conversation is getting really mixed up in the CBD oil conversation and the politics of all of it. And all the marketers, you know, rushing out there. And so people are hearing so much messaging about how it’s the new magic pill that will save us from all of our bad habits. But, I agree, I don’t think the evidence lines up on the side of marijuana being good for us. I think it’s clearly bad for us. It’s just probably not as bad for us as alcohol, but I don’t know why those always get linked.
Dr. Amen: And CBD. I’m hoping CBD is helpful, but it’s been legal for such a short period of time that there are not good long-term studies. And people will go, “Oh, but the body has, you know, a zillion CBD receptors.” That’s true. But the body also has a zillion opiate receptor sites. And how did that work out for us? Not very well. And it has a lot of benzodiazepine receptor sites. And the Benzos, like Xanax and Ativan and Valium. That didn’t work out very well for us either. And so, you know, it’s funny, they go, “Oh, we’ll take this for depression and pain”. And they’re like avoiding the obvious simple things like omega 3 fatty acids, curcumin, changing your diet, which can also help with depression and pain, but it’s not the latest fad.
Robyn: Yeah. Well, quick little side note, partly because it’s of interest to me. I just finished raising my last child to the extent you ever finish. He just graduated High School. And when I got divorced 10 years ago, we’ve had a significant amount of conflict over whether this youngest child would play football. And our first fight in our 20 years of marriage was, “Hey, so no son of mine is ever going to play contact football”. And he said, “Wait, what!?” Which I understand, I don’t know how we didn’t discuss that when we were dating since he was actually actively playing on our University’s Football team.
But I would like to get your opinion on this because when I post about it on Facebook, I get such heated reactions on both sides of it. But, you know, I wish that I had been more aware of the fact that it wasn’t just rugby and football. I wish I’d realized that I put my daughters in the line of fire. But, where do you draw the line on sports? If you were going to start raising more children today, would you just be a “No” and furthermore, “Hell, no” on football? And what else? Like what do you tell parents about football specifically and those contact sports? And what do you tell them about the ones that are more in the middle, like soccer?
Dr. Amen: Well, I have five grandchildren and I have a 14 year old at home. And the brain is soft, about the consistency of soft butter. Your skull is really hard. It has sharp, bony ridges. I would never let my children do anything where collision is the point of the sport. And so I’m not going to let them ride horses because falling from those big animals that are unpredictable is bad for their brain. I’m not letting them play football. I would never let them play soccer, if they were forced to hit soccer balls with their head. Um, I’m not a fan of hockey because of the level of concussions. No child of mine will ever be a flier in cheerleading and quite frankly, I’m not a fan of gymnastics because there are a lot of concussions.
I’m a huge fan of tennis and table tennis and golf and dancing. Um, but contact sports absolutely not. And people go, “Well, you can’t protect them from everything.” And that’s absolutely true. But you can protect them from things that are known to be associated with concussions. And it’s like, well, you know, think of it this way, if your child came home and said, “I want to do cocaine”. So how would your husband respond if, your son came home and said, “I want to do cocaine, would you help find me the best drug dealer?” You know, I mean, odds are, he’s like, “No, I don’t think we’re going to let you do that. Hell, no!”
And the level of damage from football is exactly the same as the level of damage from cocaine. And I’ve got the scans. When I first started my NFL work about 10 years ago, my brother laughed at me, and he said, “Oh, you just want everybody to play table tennis”. And I said, “No, I just want everybody to love and respect their brain”. And even if you just play one year of high school football, the evidence is that it changes the white matter tracks in your brain. The white matter tracks, you can think of it as the communication highways in your brain. So some of them get blown up or broken and I’m not okay with that. Nobody should be okay with that.
Robyn: Yeah. Thank you for being so clear about that because, you know, it’s just a cultural thing that we seem to think that whatever our child wants to do, we have to let them do even if there’s a very significant risk. So I appreciate your being so forthright about that because most people aren’t willing to go out on that limb. But like you said, you’ve seen thousands of digital images of what happens to us when we slam our skull into another skull hundreds, or thousands, of times, right?
So let’s talk a little bit about common things that help the brain. What have you learned that helps maintain or build up again, a healthy brain?
Dr. Amen: So I have a mnemonic that I like. That I published in my new book “Memory Rescue”. And it’s things to avoid and things to do. And the mnemonic is called “bright minds”. Basically brain health is three things. Love your brain. So I call it brain envy. Freud was wrong. Penis envy is not the cause of anybody’s problem. It’s that they don’t have enough brain envy. You want to care about your brain. And then avoid things that hurt it and do things that help it. And so the mnemonic I came up with is called “bright minds”.
So “B” is blood flow. Low blood flow is the number one brain imaging predictor of Alzheimer’s disease. Any vascular problem causes brain problems, hypertension, heart disease, not exercising, and so the tiny habit, the thing to do for your brain, exercise is critical to brain health. Um, because your brain uses 20 percent of the blood flow in your body, keeping your blood vessels healthy is critical.
Um, the “R” in bright minds is retirement and aging. Your brain gets worse with age. It’s just super clear that with age you get less and less activity. So the older you get, the more serious you need to be about brain health. And the little tiny habit is 15 minutes a day, learn something new. You know, your brain is like a muscle. The more you use it, the more you can use it. So new learning is critical.
The “I” in bright minds is inflammation. When you have high inflammation in your body, it’s a big risk factor for both depression and dementia. And so flossing your teeth, because gum disease is associated with brain disease, um, but also taking omega 3 fatty acids and probiotics can also be very helpful.
Um, the “G” is genetics. And I always say genes are not a death sentence, but they should be a wake up call. And so if you have Alzheimer’s disease in your family, don’t be fatalistic about it, be serious about doing everything else right.
“H” is head trauma. So there it is, we’ve been talking about it. It’s the one thing that increases your risk of suicide, of homicide, of divorce, incarceration, job failure, financial failure. I mean, this is why you don’t let kids play football. If you damage their frontal lobes, you damage their ability to run their lives. And so protecting the brain is just absolutely essential.
“T” is for toxins. And yes, drugs and alcohol can damage the brain, but also environmental toxins like mold toxicity or being exposed to gasoline fumes or paint or environmental toxins. Even toxins on your products, your personal products, whatever goes on your body goes in your body. So that’s really important.
“M” is mental health and uh, things like ADD, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD, you need to treat them. Why? Because left untreated, they damage your brain.
And, the second “I” is immunity and infections. When your immune system’s not working, your brain doesn’t work either. And so you mentioned Lyme disease. We’ve seen that clearly have a negative effect on brain function. And so getting that properly diagnosed and treated is critical.
“N” is neuro hormone deficiencies. So having low thyroid, testosterone, DHEA, bad for your brain. And so you want to get your hormones checked and optimized every year.
“D” we started to talk about a little bit is diabesity, high blood sugar and being overweight is, you know, rampant. And so your diet really does matter to the health of your brain.
And “S” is sleep. And so if you look at these bright minds, these are the things to avoid and these are the things to do. I think that’s a very comprehensive look at brain health. And your mind will be sharper, brighter than ever before if you get serious about putting these habits in your life.
Robyn: Okay. So, so many people my age are complaining about memory loss. I’ve certainly noticed that I struggle to remember someone’s name or what did I just do with my keys, or why did I walk in this room? What was I supposed to do in here? What are some of the things that people can do to reverse memory loss or stop the progression of it?
Dr. Amen: So it’s really knowing which of the 11 risk factors you have. And then attacking each one of them. That’s the exciting news. This is how you keep your brain healthy or rescue it if it’s headed for the dark place. And so online I have at amenclinics.com, a memory rescue questionnaire to go, “Well, which of the risk factors do I have and what are the things I should do about it?”
Robyn: Okay. And you know, you have said that you believe that mental health is really brain health. And as you started this interview with you were frustrated by the state of psychiatry being that psychiatrists are all about the brain and never look at the brain. But how are we going wrong with the way that we treat mental health?
I believe from what I’ve heard from friends who’ve been to the Amen clinics, and again, I haven’t been yet, but I plan to come with both daughters and um, I believe that you do prescribe SSRI’s and use some of the standard of care protocols for mental health. But you go far beyond that. You do a lot of lifestyle intervention, supplements, all guided by the actual SPECT scan that you see. So tell us a little bit more about why mental health is really brain health?
Dr. Amen: You know, when I told my dad in 1980, that I wanted to be a psychiatrist. He asked me why I didn’t want to be a real doctor, why I wanted to be a nut doctor and hang out with nuts all day long. And you know, we are a diminished specialty, that people make fun of us, and it’s our own damn fault because we don’t act like real doctors. I mean what doctor really doesn’t look at the organ they treat?
But a long time ago I realized nobody really wants to see a psychiatrist. No one wants to be labeled as defective or abnormal, but everybody wants a better brain. So what if mental health was really brain health? And I’ve come to believe that more and more. I mean, there’s a study out from Australia that if you change your diet and include more colorful fruits and vegetables and limit processed foods, it treats depression. Oh my goodness. Um, there’s another study if you take a sauna that that actually helps treat depression. That if you put the brain in a healing environment, you can be so much better. And I get excited about that.
The images immediately decrease stigma and increase compliance. Decreases stigma because “I have a medical problem, not a moral problem”. It increases compliance because “I want a better brain”. And we use all the tools in our toolbox. So you know, as you said, we’re not opposed to medication, were just opposed to giving you medication with having no information on your brain. Because all of the psychiatric medications have black box warnings and the reason they do is because they hurt people, if you give them to the wrong person. To the right person, it can save their life. To the wrong person, it can be a nightmare.
Robyn: Yeah. So people I know who’ve gone to your clinic and been prescribed SSRI’s…How do you sum up the reasons that you would put someone on a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor as opposed to sticking to all the supplements and lifestyle modifications? Just curious about that because you’ve already alluded to the risk there, especially in adolescents and children, using Prozac and Zoloft type approaches can backfire. They can increase in suicide ideation. Tell us how you see the usefulness of the psychotropic drug families compared to how most of medicine sees it.
Dr. Amen: So teenage depression is huge right now. It’s estimated that 20 percent of teenage girls meet the clinical criteria for major depression. And so this is how most psychiatrists make diagnoses. You tell them you’re depressed, they give you a diagnosis with the same name. “Oh, you’re depressed”, and then they give you an SSRI. Which work 30 percent of the time, about the same percentage of the time as placebo. You tell them you’re anxious, they’ll give you a diagnosis with the same name. “Oh, you have generalized anxiety disorder”, and then they’ll give you a Benzo to calm down the anxiety, with no biological information. Or you’ll say, “I can’t concentrate”. They’ll go, “Oh, you have ADD”, and they’ll give you a stimulant.
Or my favorite diagnosis to explain this, this is actually one of our DSM diagnostic terms, DSM is the diagnostic and statistical manual. This is how most psychiatrists diagnose people, “You have four of these eight criteria, you get this diagnosis”. And one of them is called, if you explode intermittently, so you have temper problems, they’ll give you a diagnosis called: “Intermittent explosive disorder” or IED, that’s sort of an interesting acronym. And then they’ll give you, God knows what medicine for that. And well, we just call this stupid. It’s without any biological data.
Because you know you can be depressed if your brain works too hard, at which point things like Prozac can help because they calm down activity in your frontal lobe. And you can be depressed if your brain doesn’t work hard enough, at which point giving them Prozac or something like that is likely to disinhibit them and make them worse. You can be depressed because you had head trauma or you have toxins or you have an infection, and Prozac is not helping any of those. And so when we see a specific pattern, usually one where your frontal lobes work too hard, then that’s one where the serotonin supplements or serotonin medications may in fact be very helpful.
But here it’s not, symptom equals diagnosis equals treatment. It’s, symptoms plus what your scan shows us equals diagnosis and then treatment. And our job isn’t to say you should take supplements or medications. That’s not how we think. We think our job is to give you informed consent. It’s like, “We can do this in a natural way with diet, exercise and supplementation, or we can use medication. Here are the pros and cons of each one. You decide”. And I think that’s the most rational approach because we’re not opposed to medication. I mean, some of my miracle stories happen with medication. I’m just opposed to the indiscriminate, no biological data, prescribing of medication, because once you start these meds, they’re very hard to stop.
Robyn: Yeah. Very, very difficult to get off of them. I, in my early days of dealing with severe anxiety, was on Zoloft twice, for a year, both times, just full disclosure, that will surprise some of my listeners. I know how critical I am of Pharma as an approach to health. On the other hand, I’ve suggested privately to a few people that they should go get some diagnostics and um, be very careful in the way they do it, but an SSRI can be a lifesaver. I’m not entirely sorry that I did it for a year, two different times, but I knew that I had to solve the underlying problem. Which I did and hope to and plan to never be on them again. But, wow, getting off of them was hard!
So thank you for being plain about that as well. I have one more question for you. You had a video on the Internet, which we will share in the show notes, um, that has had 40 million views. And since we can’t put it in the middle of this interview, we’ll link to it in the show notes, but tell us the story of that video.
Dr. Amen: So I think behind people that do something out of the box, where they get a lot of grief from their colleagues or their family, and I certainly have for the imaging work I do, that usually there’s a personal story of pain or triumph. And when I first started doing imaging in 1991, I was so excited about what we were doing. You know, from the X-ray technician turned psychiatrist, going, “We have to look at the brain. And now we are. I feel like I’m a real doctor again and I’m so excited”. But I got no end of grief from my colleagues who called me a charlatan and a snake oil salesman and, “You know, you can’t see what you think you see in these images. They don’t mean anything.” And it bothered me. It sort of hurt my feelings.
And I had two flaws, at the time. I really like it when people like me. And I didn’t want to be in a war, and I hate conflict. And so those are two bad things, if you’re going to pioneer anything. And, you know, to think that there are not politics in medicine is insane. It’s totally a political to structure to medicine. And I’m bucking the politics and I have no power basically. I’m a private practice clinician who’s busy, and so I was just unhappy. But loved the work.
And then in April 1995, I got a call, late one night from my sister in law, Sherry, who told me my nine year old godson, Andrew, who’s also my nephew, attacked a little girl on the baseball field that day for no particular reason. And I’m like, “Excuse me?” And she said, “Danny, he’s different. He’s mean. He doesn’t smile anymore. I went into his room today and found two pictures he had drawn. In one of them, he was hanging from a tree. The other picture he was shooting other children”. In retrospect, Andrew was Columbine, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Florida waiting to happen.
And I said, “I want to see him tomorrow in my office”. And they drove eight hours to see me. And when I walked into my office and saw him on my couch, my heart melted because I love this child. And I was very worried about him. And I’m like, “Buddy what’s going on?” And he said, “Uncle Danny, I don’t know. I’m mad all the time”. I said, “Is anybody hurting you?” He said, “No”. I asked, “Is anybody teasing you?” He said, “No.” “Is anybody touching you in places that they shouldn’t be touching you?” You know, searching for answers to his senseless behavior. And he said, “No”.
And my first thought, I’ve been scanning people for four years, “You have to scan him”. And then my next thought is “You want to scan everybody. You know, maybe he’s got a psychological problem”. And then the logical part of my brain said, “Scan him. If his scan is normal then you can play with the psychological game”. And you know, I always tell people if you have good psychiatric training, you can find dirt in anybody’s family.
And so I went with him to the imaging center and held his hand while he got scanned. And it turned out he had a cyst the size of a golf ball occupying the space of his left temporal lobe, which is an area we’d already associated with violence. And, when I finally got someone to take it seriously and they drained the cyst, his behavior completely went back to normal. And the doctor told me if I hadn’t persisted in getting him that specific kind of help, that he would have been dead in six months.
And that was the story. I didn’t care anymore if you liked me. I was ready to take on the fight of my life. And, you know, it’s funny, I told that story when I was speaking at Saddleback Church at the end of a long lecture. Somebody filmed it. I have no idea who. They posted it on Facebook. And you know, as you said, it’s gotten nearly 40 million views and 28,000 comments, which are just amazing. Um, mental health is brain health. And when we finally figure that out, we’ll be much better at decreasing stigma.
Robyn: Well that put a fine point on it. I’ve heard you tell that story from live stages and I know it’s really close to your heart and gives you probably wind under your wings when you are criticized, as all great thinkers are because you’re changing a paradigm and requiring us to look at things we maybe weren’t looking at before in a really important part of our health. So what is a visit to Amen clinics look like? How long do you stay? What are you doing? What kind of a treatment plan do you leave with? Tell us a little bit about that and where those eight clinics are.
Dr. Amen: Well, thank you for asking. People usually come for a couple of days and we look at their brain twice. Once at rest. Once when they do a concentration task. And we also take really detailed histories. I mean, we really get a lot of information on our patients. And the scans together with the history help us to direct what we do for you. And it’s life changing for so many people.
We have clinics, four on the West Coast: Bellevue, Washington, San Francisco, Encina, which is just north of Los Angeles and Costa Mesa in Orange County. And on the East Coast four in: Chicago, New York, Washington, DC and Atlanta. And, you know, we couldn’t be more thrilled to see people. You know, we know not everybody can come and get scanned. That’s why I write books like “Change your Brain, Change your Life”, “Memory Rescue” or “The Brain Warrior’s Way”.
People can learn more about our work at: amenclinics.com
But if you are struggling, um, and people always go, “Well what does it cost?” And, you know, the first question to ask yourself is, “What does it cost to have and ineffectively treated brain health problem?” You know, either in your relationships or school or work or finances. Our whole evaluation is about $4,000. Um, that includes everything we do. For people who can’t afford that. We do different evaluations. We are connected with a group called Care Credit. You can pay for it interest free over a year or 18 months. Um, I mean we really try to get the information we’ve learned to as many people as possible.
Robyn: Well, thank you for that. I was going to ask you about your books as well. And our audience both on this podcast as well as the half a million subscribers we have that we send a newsletter to every week at Green Smoothie Girl. We have found that our 35 to 65 year old, mostly female audience, is very worried about memory loss and avoiding the dementias, Parkinson’s, ALS, and MS, that they see their parents and grandparents going through. And so what would be the best book for 35 to 65 year old women who are worried about memory loss, and neuro-degenerative disease, of your body of work?
Dr. Amen: “Memory Rescue” for sure. I mean, this is how do you keep your brain healthy or rescue it if it’s headed to the dark place.
Robyn: Okay. Well, we will include all of these resources and the amazing published body of work by Dr. Amen in our show notes. And Dr. Amen, Thank you so much for being with us and for all the amazing wealth of knowledge you’ve shared today.
Dr. Amen: Thank you. Robyn. What a joy to be with you.