Single-photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT Imaging)
SPECT fundamentally discloses to us three things about the mind:
- Good activity
- Excessively little
- To an extreme
Below is a set of healthy SPECT scans:
The picture on the left shows the outside surface of the cerebrum, and a healthy scan shows full, even, balanced movement or activity. The color is not essential; it’s the shape that matters.
In the image on the right, the red equals the area of high activity, and in a healthy brain, they’re typically in the back part of the brain.
You can see the holes of activity as a comparison between a healthy scan and someone with two strokes.
Here’s what Alzheimer’s looks like, where the half-back of the brain is deteriorating.
Alzheimer’s usually starts in the brain 30 to 50 years before you have any side effects!
Scan of traumatic brain damage:
Your brain is soft and delicate, whereas your skull is really hard. Or drug abuse. The real reason not to use drugs is they damage our brains.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder – the front part of the brain typically works really hard so that people cannot turn off their thoughts.
Epilepsy-where we frequently observe regions of expanded movement.
Solutions Served Without Seeing
Psychiatrists make a diagnosis by talking to people and looking for symptom clusters without imaging. Imaging was showing that there was a better way.
Did you ever think that the only medical specialists virtually never look at the organ they treat? Yes, the psychiatrists.
Cardiologists look, neurologists look, orthopedic doctors look-virtually every other medical specialty looks, but psychiatrists guess!
Before imaging, it was like throwing darts in the dark at the patients, which hurts.
It taught many important lessons, such as illnesses like ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), anxiety, depression, and addictions are not simple or single disorders in the brain; they all have multiple types.
For example, two patients diagnosed with significant depression below have virtually the same symptoms yet radically different brains. One had really low activity, and the other had high activity in the brain.
How would you ever know what to do for them unless you looked? Treatment needs to be tailored to individual brains rather than on clusters of symptoms.
Imagery treatments also teach us that mild traumatic brain injury is a significant cause of psychiatric illness that destroys people’s lives. Therefore, no one knew about it — because everyone sees psychiatrists for temper problems, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. And they would never look, so they would never understand.
The image above is a scan of a 15-year-old boy who fell down a flight of stairs at age 3. Even though he was unconscious for only a few minutes, there was nothing lenient about the injury’s enduring effect on the boy’s life.
At 15, he had just been kicked out of his third residential treatment program for violence. He needed a brain rehabilitation program, not just more medication or behavioral therapy has thrown at him in the dark. Putting him on a behavioral therapy program when behavior is an expression of the problem is not the problem.
Researchers have suggested that undiagnosed brain injuries are a major cause of:
- drug and alcohol abuse
- panic attacks
- ADHD and suicide
NFL (National Football League) Players and Their Brain Function
We are in for a pending disaster with the 100s and 1000s of soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, and virtually no one is looking at their brain function.
At SPECS, they performed the first and largest study on active and retired NFL players, showing high levels of damage in these players.
These players were then examined through a brain-smart program and demonstrated that 80% of them could improve blood flow, memory, and mood. This means you are not stuck with the brain that you have; you can make it better.
How Exciting Is That?
Reversing brain damage has many implications and is a fascinating new frontier.
Here is a scan of a teenage girl who has ADHD. She was cutting herself, flopping in school, and battling with her parents. When her brain improved, she moved from D’s and F’s to A’s and B’s and was much more emotionally stable.
Criminals and the Brain Function
Judges and defense attorneys sought SPECT’s help to understand criminal behavior. They scanned over 500 convicted felons, including 90 murderers. SPECT taught us that people who do bad things have troubled brains.
That was not a surprise. Yet, what surprised us was that many of these minds could be restored. So here is an extreme thought: imagine a scenario in which we assessed and treated disturbed minds instead of essentially warehousing them in toxic, stressful environments.
We can save a colossal measure of cash by making these individuals more functional so that when they leave prison, they can work, look after their families and make good on their expenses.
Dostoyevsky’s Point of View
Fyodor Dostoyevsky once said, “A society should be judged not by how well it treats outstanding citizens, but by how it treats its criminals.”
We should consider crime evaluation and treatment instead of just crime and punishment.
According to the colleagues at SPECS, you can change people’s brains. And when you do, you change their lives. Remember, when you have the privilege of changing someone’s brain, you not only change their life, but you have the opportunity to change generations to come.