For decades, we treated brain disorders blindly, without even knowing what was really going on inside.
Not only did that mean we could mistake one problem for another, it meant an overall lack of information to successfully treat brain issues for optimal function. In some cases, the wrong treatment could even make matters worse. On top of that, issues identified as mental illness were kept separate from the physical brain, leaving many patients suffering without answers.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are two great examples. They have overlapping symptoms and without seeing a picture of the brain alongside a detailed patient history, we may end up searching for a needle in a haystack and doing more harm than good. And though PTSD is often thought of as a psychological issue, it is, in fact, a brain disorder that requires a real look at the brain.
Now, thanks to advances in technology and innovative doctors, we’re able to get a clearer picture of what’s actually happening inside the brain before hashing out the best protocol for healing. Brain scans using single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) can help us diagnose disorders like these with high accuracy, compared to MRI and CT scans which often show “normal” results in people with PTSD. An accurate diagnosis means more targeted treatment options, something my friend Dr. Daniel Amen has had great success with when using the SPECT imaging method for PTSD, TBIs, and many other brain disorders.
Symptomatically, patients with PTSD and TBIs can both have mood and personality changes, anxiety, depression, and other devastating warning signs. But when we take a deeper look, we see that patients with TBI have decreased activity in the prefrontal cortex, temporal lobes, and cerebellum. These are the parts of the brain that manage self-control of mood and behavior, memory, and coordinated movement.
Patients with PTSD on the other hand, have increased activity in the limbic system, basal ganglia, prefrontal cortex, cerebellum, and temporal, occipital, and parietal lobes. These regions are involved in fear processing and emotional regulation, sensory processing, and integration of information.
Those are some big differences, ones that can make or break progress if they aren’t accounted for. Dr. Amen uses brain scans to take a functional approach to brain disorders, using them alongside many other factors like genetics, environmental toxicity, lifestyle, and of course diet, to make a comprehensive plan that works to support both brain and body.
If you’re interested in the latest advances for treating brain disorders like PTSD and TBIs, as well as taking a new approach to what is often termed “mental illness,” I hope you’ll tune in to my latest episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy where I talk about all this and more with Dr. Amen himself.