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Seven Questions for Daniel Amen

The Seven Questions project welcomes renowned brain expert and bestselling author Daniel Amen. You may have heard him preach his message of change on PBS, on the bookshelves or at professional conferences. He's not simply suggesting you can change your attitude or behavior, he actually believes you can change your brain. Read More

I am sick of fellow

I am sick of fellow psychiatrists making the one step assumption that a change in brain structure means that behavior is of biological etiology. This is so erroneously simplist that the extent of reaonsing behind it does not go beyond 1st grade math. But it is easy to write about, convince the naive,produce a large bulk of papers and generate alot of money. Sometimes I wish I was so naive-then I could make a great living as a self-claimed expert to those who like simple answers and little interpersonal responsiblity.

I don't get some of the

I don't get some of the negative feedback I've been reading here. People in the field should welcome the fact there is one more tool out there to help in diagnosis and treatment. I just listened to Dr. Amen speak on TED. He's now got 83,000 scans and has discovered certain patterns the field of psychology can benefit from. It's almost as through I'm sensing this underlying tone of jealousy or resentment because this guy seems a bit pompous and is making money. Get over it.


What is it you don't get? I came across this man speaking on a PBS channel by accident today. It took me less than 1 minute to label him a quack.

The general public is uninformed about most scientific issues and will gravitate to certain claims that give them "answers" whether right or wrong. This is similar to the manner by which people will grasp religions. I was horrified, not only by the claims made by this man, but by how he plays to the needs of his followers to believe his ridiculous claims. Innocent people are being misled and are bypassing possible treatments to buy up the brand of snake oil sold by this quack!

Never in my life have I seen such a quack embraced by so many. Worse is my realization that there is no professional organization, no person, nothing anywhere to protect the public by exposing this man as the fraud he is.

If I were a conspiracy theorist, I'd say this person is a plant, a piece of a plot by a central organization that wishes to control the masses. He "demonstrates" a way to show brain dysfunctions; he then gives false methods to "cure" these "dysfunctions”. Refer to some of your favorite science fiction plots over the years. They predicted this method of mind control of the masses.

This man has played the system, spent years amassing the "credentials" he needed to make it difficult to disprove his claims which he can't substantiate. Unlike "Dr." Laura, who pretends to be a qualified psychotherapist with her degree in physiology, NOT psychology, "Dr.” Amen invested years of his life going to the right schools, getting the right references, finally coupling with the "right" people. He now presents himself as the only "expert" in a field he created, that of "curing" ADD using his phony remedies and meaningless images which only he can interpret as "cures".

Sorry I continually refer to “this man” instead of using his name. I’m so distressed over what I saw this morning that it pains me to say “Dr.” Amen.


It is a costly scam. Don't do it.

I used to refer

I used to refer patients to the Amen Clinic, as I am an open minded wholistic psychiatrist who knows that we lack lots of answers. What I found however was that the AMEN reports did not alter my treatment. At first it was interesting, and I was hopeful-but every one came back with virtually the same conclusions, and so after referring 15-20 people, I stopped. This does not mean that Amen is not correct in many things he preaches, however, a very thorough wholistic integrative evaluation which includes a physical exam ( and which assesses neurological history, digestion, detoxification (e.g.mold/toxic exposures), immune function, inflammation, infection, mitochondrial function, oxidative stress, nutrition, endocrinnopathy, as well as psycho-social-spiritual issues) will come to the same conclusions, and save $3,000+ dollars. It would be hard for Amen to admit this, as he clearly earns alot of money from his centers.


Psychiatrist TOO wrote:
I used to refer patients to the Amen Clinic, as I am an open minded wholistic psychiatrist who knows that we lack lots of answers. What I found however was that the AMEN reports did not alter my treatment. At first it was interesting, and I was hopeful-but every one came back with virtually the same conclusions, and so after referring 15-20 people, I stopped. This does not mean that Amen is not correct in many things he preaches, however, a very thorough wholistic integrative evaluation which includes a physical exam ( and which assesses neurological history, digestion, detoxification (e.g.mold/toxic exposures), immune function, inflammation, infection, mitochondrial function, oxidative stress, nutrition, endocrinnopathy, as well as psycho-social-spiritual issues) will come to the same conclusions, and save $3,000+ dollars. It would be hard for Amen to admit this, as he clearly earns alot of money from his centers.

This makes a lot of sense - I

This makes a lot of sense - I am wondering if there is a place that does this thorough holistic evaluation as you describe it? Do the Amen clinics do this in addition to the scans? Are there other clinics set up to provide these services?
Thank you for your thoughts.

Seeking Holistic Psychiatric in SF Bay Area

I am wondering if Psychiatrist TOO practices in the SF Bay Area (Oakland, CA). That's where I live, and I would love to get a referral for a holistic psychiatrist, if Psychiatrist TOO is not local. Thanks in advance for any information you can share with me.

Dr. Amen Seven Questions

I have been referring to Dr. Amen for the past 12 years. I, my staff, and a foundation started by patients that have been helped by Dr. Amen have made over 3000 referrals. The use of SPECT Brain Imaging is a tool that is bringing the fields of psychology and psychiatry out of the dark ages. By the time patients and their families reach my office they have already been too numerous psychiatrists, and psychologists. One family had literally spent over $100,000 in their pursuit of help for their son who had multiple addictions. With the information provided by the SPECT Scan we were able to develop a medication and supplement program that has enabled him maintain sobriety, and develop a meaningful and purposeful life. With a data base that is now approaching 50,000 scans, obviously many people are helped! It is simple to be critical unless you have actually had the opportunity to utilize SPECT Imaging on a daily basis, and witness the role it plays in helping people make the changes they have been searching for in many cases for years.


Huge thanks to Dr. Amen, for opening so many minds to the idea that the brain is an organ. It's a scary thought to many of us, but he talks about it in a way that is non-threatening and even engaging. He gives people hope that they aren't stuck with lifelong habits or attitudes that they've thus far been unable to shake, and he clearly outlines the methods.

Thanks to happening upon his book Change Your Brain, Change Your LIfe almost ten years ago, I've been better able to help many other people understand how to elevate their lives by minding their brain.

Gina Pera, author
Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.?

Change Your Brain, Change Your Life

Hmmm. That title sounds just like Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life by Paul Hammerness and Margaret Moore, published by Harvard.

Amen clinic and Lab Tests

Our son had ADD and also had experimented with drugs. We took him for evaluation and a brain scan at an Amen Clinic. It was informative.

But I would suggest before people have a brain scan, they should have extensive lab tests that check for food allergies, heavy metal toxicities, essential fatty acid deficiencies, amino acid deficiencies, vitamin & mineral imbalances, etc. Then get the proper nutrients into the body that are necessary to balance the body.

I don't understand why any doctors in the field would not use all tools at their disposal before giving any drugs. What I know now, I would never have given our son Ritalin in elementary school since it has a similar effect on the brain as Cocaine!

Dr. Amen is right when he states that "when the brain works right, we work right".

I'm a reporter for the San

I'm a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News. I am writing a story about the Amen Clinics and SPECT imaging. I just read your comment on the Psychology Today website about your experience with one of Amen's clinics. Would you be willing to talk with me about your experience?

Chris Palmer

Hi Chris -- did you ever

Hi Chris -- did you ever write your article? While the concept of a scan sounds promising, there are so many negative reviews of the clinic on "A Famous Review Site that Rhymes with Help" that I can't help but wonder if this is all a scam. One person on that review site said that they actually took the Amen clinic to small claims court and won when he/she convinced the judge that the $5k they had taken from him/her needed to be repaid. That sounds super-sketchy to me!

I have two students at my

I have two students at my school, ages 7 and 12, that both went through the Amen Clinic. They both returned with nearly identical information..."There are multiple types of ADHD and your child has the type in which a stimulant med is not the best choice. We recommend that you take these XXXXXX supplements instead. Oh, and we just happen to sell these XXXXX supplements."
Of note...neither student has had improvement on the supplements. At first glance, the information is impressive and fascinating, but then I formed the opinion that it was a scam for desperate parents. Sadly these parents are out thousands of dollars for the attractive scans and hundreds and hundreds of dollars on some vitamins that are not even endorsed by the FDA for the uses they claim.

Possibly psuedoscience?

I must admit that I am somewhat sceptical of this entire field of psychology. I saw Amen on an episode of Larry King Live the other night in which they were discussing serial murderers. He said that he could predict whether or not someone would commit a heinous crime simply by looking at an image of their brain. To me, this is absolute, for lack of a better term, bull-sh*t.

We might as well start teaching phrenology in universities again if we are going to call this type of research "science".

The biggest problem, or flaw one might say, with this area of psychology is that its entire foundation is based upon the assumption that increased blood flow to a specific region of the brain is an indication that that part of the brain is involved in whatever task the person is engaging. The scientists within this discipline are trying to confirm the "localization of function" belief that particular brain regions are specialized for particular tasks or behaviours.

There is quite of bit of scientific literature out there which contends that this belief is entirely erroneous; the brain is a complex organ and its form and structure is unique to each human being.

Yup, phrenology.

That was a very good analogy. They boast of some 80,000 scans which they compare and correlate (I'm assuming) to the evaluations which they actually gather from the questionnaires which the patient and a parent/guardian or spouse/friend answer. HUNDREDS of questions, and whatever comes up in their tabulation is what the clinic superimposes on the brain scans.
In fact, I know of a case where a client was told his brain is damaged. He ended up getting an MRI at UCLA and was assured by real neuroscientists that the shape which the Amen clinic deemed deformed and damaged, was perfectly normal. Just like some people have big ears, and some people have small ears, and most people's ears are fairly unique to them.
It's a horrible place, and PBS as well as TED should remove Amen from their websites and YouTube playlists.

Investment in Health

I would first like to make several points in response to the above comments:

1) Behavior *is of biological etiology. How can it be of any other etiology in a biological system, a human being.

2) Basing a conclusion on 15-20 patients is hardly an adequate sample size. What about the exception that might have been patient #25 for whom the SPECT scan would have revealed unique data not detectable by the standard battery of tests. If SPECT scans confirms the results of other tests I see nothing wrong with this. Insurance should be covering SPECT scans in a broader range of clinical conditions.

3)Brain form and structure is not unique to each human being any more than any other part of the human anatomy. There may be anomalies and individual variations but basic form and structure are
constant in the brain as they are in the heart, the lungs, the liver . . . etc.

SPECT scans are being targeted in a mass disinformation campaign because many are fearful of the implications of these scans becoming part of accepted diagnostic procedure and enterable as regular court testimony in legal disputes. In many instances SPECT scans would conclusively prove chemical and other injury and cost large corporations a lot of money in lost court cases, including the Social Security Administration due to having to pay disability claims they now deny.

As well they are a competitor for MRI, PET and CAT scans. It's a clear turf war.

Amen has courageously presented his data and ideas in high visibility public forums. His promotion of SPECT technology is of great benefit to human kind and to scientific knowledge. Profit is not a dirty word, if it were then the pharmaceutical industry is much more guilty of making money than Dr Amen.

I will continue to follow Dr Amen's ideas and progress in his use of SPECT scans and non-pharmaceutical treatments as a line of first treatment in mood and behavior disorders. A scan may cost a patient $3000 but how much does a life time of illness and dysfunction or a ruine marriage cost? From this perspective $3000 sounds like a very wise and productive investment in health to me.

Your treatment didn`t help me.

I know you won`t answer me, but I`ll send you this e-mail anyway. I took your treatment and it didn`t help me or improved anything in me. Instead, it made me feel worse. Thanks for nothing. I wish none of the members of my family, (they made me took it), heard about you or THE AMEN SOLUTION. My life is miserable since.

Contacting Dr. Amen

To contact Dr. Amen you'll need to go to his website - This is a Psychology Today interview with Dr. Amen from 2009, I don't believe he monitors these comments.

The logic of performing SPECT

I have just read Dr. Amen's "Change Your Brain, Change Your Life." Consider the logic of each of the following two diagnostic and treatment protocols:

A. Dr. Amen's Protocol
1. Patient reports having depression.
2. Brain scan shows abnormal activity in deep limbic system.
3. Dr. Amen knows deep limbic system controls depression,
and that Prozac helps regulate the deep limbic system.
4. Dr. Amen prescribes Prozac.

B. Someone Else's Protocol
1. Patient reports having depression.
2. No brain scan. We're almost certain that there's an issue
with the deep limbic system, because that's what controls
depression!!! So we DON'T NEED TO LOOK AT IT.
3. Someone Else prescribes Prozac.

Patient B saves $3,700 out-of-pocket expense and unknown number of Rads.

The logic of performing SPECT

If only "Critical Thinker"'s "solution" were so simple. I am treating a young 18 year old with a history of depression and anxiety. He is now on his sixth anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication, after two suicide attempts and one hospitalization, and is also under the care of a psychiatrist who prescribed all those meds. I know from long experience that psychiatrist is a well-meaning, hard-working caring professional who has helped many young people in the past, sometimes as easily as "Critical Thinker" thinks it's done. But it's often not that easy, as the case I cited attests to. And how much do you think that young person's parents (and their insurance companies) have spent so far on the the office visits, the meds and the hospitalization, not to mention the psychic pain. And we're still guessing at what the right meds will be. I've referred them to Dr. Amen's web site, and plan to check it further myself.

"And we're still guessing at

"And we're still guessing at what the right meds will be" -- that's exactly why you're failing.
If the child is suffering from depression (and yes, 18 is still a child), even if there's an organic component, his family environment failed him to a large extent and clearly needs an overhaul. It sounds like the parents would rather pay the money and sacrifice the child just so they don't have to work on their own problems. SHAME on all of you.
And if you ever did send him to Amen's clinic, he probably came out of there with the same generic folder everyone does, and a few pages "specific" to him. In those pages they most likely told him his brain was defective, with a solemn but empathetic facade, and proceeded to sell him their substandard vitamins (read the ingredients).
Now he really has something to hate himself about -- there's something wrong with his brain, said the shaming (and all too often erroneous) report which is so identical to so many others... Why not just do away with it all?
I wonder what happened to the boy.

Dr. Amen

I have to laugh at some of these comments. Strictly from a Medical standpoint, how much money do hospitals waste in the last weeks or months of someones life on equipment, tests, consultations and medications to numb the patient?

I bet it costs more than a scan from one of Amen's clinics.

The difference is if it works, the $3000 aids society get a better functioning person in its ranks and saves us all money in the long run.

I don't understand the

I don't understand the following this guy has. He's been kicked out of medical organizations.
Makes claims that haven't been replicated and can do anything in a private practice because
he's not taking NIH or government money. That is so long as the patients or their parents sign
on the dotted line. Seems the media has bought this guy hook line and sinker and ignores the
Medical community that has discredited him. WOW.

Seriously, I'm really not too

Seriously, I'm really not too worried about the fact that "mainstream" medicine has an issue with Dr. Amen. If he's helping people.. WHO CARES?????? I can pop off names of mainstream doctors who make a living off of killing people, so really, the whining about his being ousted by these people has no credibility whatsoever. There are many doctors who have chosen to take alternatives to throwing perscription drugs (which come with kickbacks in some cases-but let's not discredit "that")at patients -these folks think outside the box and MORE POWER TO THEM FOR IT! People who have nothing better to do than sit at their computers and discredit someone who's trying to do something outside the BRAIN DEAD BOX make me sick!

Always Has Been Always Will Be

It's amazing how trendsetters take such abuse from the public. It's the same all throughout history. What amazes me is people in his field can trash him with the simplicity they do. Pride and arrogance in the psychiatric field is common so shouldn't supprise me, but it does. The guy's numbers speak for themselves, look them up psychiatrist's who think he is a joke. Bottom line, his numbers trump yours. Spect scans will be common in the near future, everyone knows this. How is taking the guessing out of psychiatry a bad thing? Guess the mechanic who now routinely as protocol, hook up your engine to a machine which takes him straight to the problem in much less time without the guessing or the slower protocols which were used prior to this technology is a quack too. Why don't we just keep things the way they always were concerning psychiatry cause this has been such a successful way to go! Wrong. For those Doctors who trash this guy, read up on the history of your field in the last 30 years and realize how many shifts have been made, getting closer to "what really is" each time. But their will always be skeptics with every generation, so nothing new. The greats consistently throughout our history have been called the same. Consider your motivation for your skepticism to so easily disrespect this man. It seems that a doctor who has a passion and a love for people as to invest the time they do to heal would see the success of this guy, but that's only me.

My daughter:

I have a 40 year old daughter who has taken every medicine known and cannot hold a job, relationship. She is now on another high powered medicine and has lost from 170 to 112 lbs and is a skeleton and still the same. She has been told she is bi=-polar and maybe borderline. I need help!!! Would Dr. Amen help her? I only have a little left to help her financially and our family is torn apart over what to do. She has been to Florida to a rehab, etc. and many doctors and they all say something different. What should we do? Charleston, SC

Dr. Amen may or may not be

Dr. Amen may or may not be able to help her. Unfortunately with mental illnesses, doctors don't always know the underlying problem or how to fix the symptoms. I would recommend looking up as much info as possible online and trying to find specialists for bipolar/borderline.

Is it too late?

Dr. Amen, please advise, I am 82 years of age and last year in my 82nd birth month gave up a 16 year real estate business, due to the fact that my memory brain is not as sharp as it was and in the real estate bus. that is critical. I take a 81mg of aspirin a vit. D, and a 50mcg tablet of Levothyroxine daily. Dr. Amen I am now watching you on our PBS station in the LA area. Please advise.
My ambishion is fading.


James A. Creelman

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Ryan Howes, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, writer, musician and professor at Fuller Graduate School of Psychology in Pasadena, California.


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