Concussions/TBI: What Happens In The Brain?

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

New research shows us the surprising impact a concussion can have on your brain and your life. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen continue their discussion on hidden brain injuries by delving into the topic of concussions. Learn about the physical effects that take place after even a minor concussion, and how it can affect your daily life.

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Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. I'm Doctor Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. In our podcast we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years, using tools like brain SPECT imaging, to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information visit
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest-quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more go to
Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome back. We hope listening to the Brain Warrior's Way Podcast soothes whatever brain injuries you've had.
Tana Amen: For sure.
Dr Daniel Amen: You soothe me every day.
Tana Amen: I was just gonna say the same thing.
Dr Daniel Amen: Do you have a review you wanna read?
Tana Amen: I do. So this is from Laura Louise. "Excellent, self-care first. Then we are more able and available to do the rest of life in a quality-paced fashion." Love that. We're always telling people that.
Dr Daniel Amen: So new research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal shows that even mild concussion sustained in ordinary community settings might be more detrimental than anyone anticipated, except me. The long-term risk of suicide increases three-fold in adults if they've experienced even one concussion. Additional study reiterated the seriousness of traumatic brain injuries, stating it is the leading cause of death and disability in young adults in the developed world, and that individuals with mild TBI, think concussion, had an elevated risk of suicide by 81%.
Tana Amen: Wow.
Dr Daniel Amen: The link between TBIs contributing to poor outcomes later in life was recently investigated in much greater depth. Research published in PLOS Medicine studied more than a million people born since 1973, and followed them to see how head injuries impact their lives in the coming decades. And what they're gonna find, there's a higher incidence of depression. There's a higher incidence of ADD. There's a higher incidence of learning problems, a higher incidence of panic disorder, a higher incidence not only of suicide but also homicide. There's a higher incidence of divorce, incarceration, bankruptcy, because when you your brain works right, you work right. And when your brain is trouble, for whatever reason, such as a concussion, you have trouble in your life.
Tana Amen: Right. I certainly witnessed that with my mom, and that was not her first concussion, but this one was bad-
Dr Daniel Amen: [crosstalk 00:03:04] like-
Tana Amen: ... and it just really changed-
Dr Daniel Amen: ... number 10-
Tana Amen: ... her life-
Dr Daniel Amen: ... for her.
Tana Amen: Right. And it really changed her life.
Dr Daniel Amen: Right. The first time I scanned her I said, "Hey, did you ever have a head injury?" She goes, "No."
Tana Amen: She was calling me-
Dr Daniel Amen: And then she went and told me about all the [crosstalk 00:03:15]-
Tana Amen: Oh dear lord, she was still calling me three weeks later. "Oh I forgot to tell him about this," or "Oh I forgot to tell him about that accident." I'm like, that was, did explain my whole life growing up.
Dr Daniel Amen: So why do they ruin your life? And why does no one know about it? Because they end up having emotional problems, so panic attacks, depression, suicidal thoughts, relationship problems, domestic violence. And they go see therapists, and because most therapists have never been trained about the brain, and even psychiatrists never look at the brain, you then assume it's depression. So let's say, so I saw somebody yesterday, and they had low activity in their frontal lobes, and low activity in their temporal lobes. And he goes to his family doctor, even goes to a good psychiatrist, and he goes, "Well I'm depressed." And he meets six out of the nine criteria, so he gets a diagnosis of depression, and they put him on an SSRI. That's a standard-
Tana Amen: Which is what happened-
Dr Daniel Amen: ... first thing-
Tana Amen: ... to me.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... to do. Standard first thing to do is they put you on a serotonin, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. And what is serotonin doing to your brain? It calms it down. So-
Tana Amen: Drops your frontal lobes.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... if you have low frontal lobes to start-
Tana Amen: It could ruin your life.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... and someone drops them further, it can actually disinhibit you-
Tana Amen: And ruin your life.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... and then you get a thought, oh I'd be better off dead, and then you make a suicide attempt because your frontal lobes, which are also involved in empathy, doesn't see the pain that it's going to cause other people.
Tana Amen: Yeah, no, it's ridiculous. They put me on an SSRI and it was terrible, when I was going through my depression. Well I took myself off of it. They tried to double my dose when I told them I didn't think it was working. Crazy. But I wanted to point something out 'cause you mentioned earlier that most therapists are not trained to deal with the brain. So just a FYI, 'cause we're gonna get inundated with people going, "Well, but my therapist isn't. What do I do?" We actually do have a network on our website of people who are trained in our work. So, just wanna put that out there.
Dr Daniel Amen: Yeah, and you can also come to one of the clinics, 'cause [inaudible 00:05:36] I always say, how do you know unless you look? If you've had a concussion or fall or car accident, and the traditional things you're doing are not working, someone should look at your brain. If people go, "Hey Daniel, single most important thing you've learned from 150,000 scans?" Is mild traumatic brain injury ruins people's lives. And nobody knows about it because most therapists aren't looking.
So in the study we published in PLOS One, it got downloaded a gazillion times, we did a world literature review on SPECT and traumatic brain injury. There were 1600 citations. So let's stop saying there's no science behind imaging work. 91% of times, it affected peoples' frontal lobes. So it affected-
Tana Amen: If there was no science behind it-
Dr Daniel Amen: ... the prefrontal cortex-
Tana Amen: ...why would they use it so much in research, and why do we use it in the hospital? I'm just curious.
Dr Daniel Amen: 'Cause they didn't know about the science, and if somebody doesn't know about it, they say there's no science. Anyways, 91% affects your prefrontal cortex. So, well what kind of problems would you have if you hurt the front third of your brain?
Tana Amen: Judgment, impulse control, lack of empathy. So, being overly spontaneous to the point of being impulsive. Your executive function would be-
Dr Daniel Amen: So, by-
Tana Amen: ... impaired.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... executive function, it's sort of like the boss at work.
Tana Amen: Right. Or a parent.
Dr Daniel Amen: Or a parent. And if-
Tana Amen: You can't effectively parent yourself.
Dr Daniel Amen: Right, so it's basically the part of your brain that makes decisions. And if you've hurt the prefrontal cortex, the decisions you make might not be as good. You say the first stupid thing that comes to your mind, which can get you into all sorts of hog water if you're married, especially to a redhead.
Tana Amen: Why do you always say that? You're gonna make them think I am so mean.
Dr Daniel Amen: You're awesome. I married you. I married you because I love you and because you're awesome.
Tana Amen: I notice you choked on that I love you. Are you afraid of me?
Dr Daniel Amen: Absolutely. Right? You have elevated my fear. But-
Tana Amen: No, I've elevated your frontal lobes. Let's be clear.
Dr Daniel Amen: I don't know if you've elevated them or stunned them.
Tana Amen: I [inaudible 00:08:14] better decisions.
Dr Daniel Amen: But think about it. Decision making is involved in everything in your marriage, in your health, in your money, in your work. And so if your prefrontal cortex is hurt, the decisions you make are not as effective, and that can damage every area of your life. And one of my favorite stories is Jose, who I was on the Dr. Phil Show-
Tana Amen: Now see he should've been afraid of someone like me.
Dr Daniel Amen: He would've.
Tana Amen: He would've been afraid.
Dr Daniel Amen: Right. He, we did a show on Dr. Phil about cheaters, about people who are unfaithful in their relationships.
Tana Amen: Repeatedly.
Dr Daniel Amen: And he had cheated on his wife eight times in a couple of years. And Dr. Phil said, "My dad said if there is, if you see a rat, there's 50 more behind the wall." So he's like, there's probably more to this than Jose was admitting. And he had low frontal lobe function, in a traumatic brain injury pattern. And I'm like, "Did you ever have a brain injury?" And he said no. And I'm like, and I go, "Are you sure? Have you ever fallen off, fallen out of a tree, fell off a fence, dove into a shallow-end pool? Been in a car accident, played sports having concussions?" He said, "Well I'm a mixed martial artist." I'm like, "Okay, that'll do it." Then he played football for four years. And then he said, "And I break bottles with my head." I'm like, "What?" He said, "Yeah, it's sort of like a party trick-
Tana Amen: But I would've broken-
Dr Daniel Amen: ... I can take a beer bottle and go boom! against my forehead."
Tana Amen: I would've broken a bottle over his head.
Dr Daniel Amen: Yes, you would have. That is true. We'll talk about your traumatic brain injury in a little bit. And so the first thing for him, it's, well, what do you want? 'Cause some people want a promiscuous lifestyle, but he wanted to be married.
Tana Amen: Right, just don't-
Dr Daniel Amen: He didn't want-
Tana Amen: ... be married to someone-
Dr Daniel Amen: ... his-
Tana Amen: ... who doesn't.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... child to grow up in a broken home like he grew up in. And so if you knew what he wanted, and clearly his behavior was not getting him what he wanted, because his wife had a loaded gun at home and she was ready to use it on him. She was so-
Tana Amen: Oh jeez.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... angry. And, but still that didn't dissuade him. What I needed to do was get him to know what he wanted and then fix his frontal lobes, which we did with diet, exercise, supplements. We'll talk about [inaudible 00:11:02]. And they're still married. And now I think it's eight years later.
Tana Amen: Yeah, it's amazing.
Dr Daniel Amen: He's got his nurse anesthetist degree. I mean he finished.
Tana Amen: So he got his Master's-
Dr Daniel Amen: College-
Tana Amen: ... degree.
Dr Daniel Amen: He got his Master's degree.
Tana Amen: Yeah, see that's amazing. So you hear about a story where someone was unfaithful once and, but it was not a, it wasn't around a chronic situation, and you can heal from that over time. But when someone does it eight times or more, or it's just a chronic situation, you have to ask yourself, what's going on? And they're doing it 'cause they don't want to. [inaudible 00:11:35] 'cause that's kind of relationship they want, then you should just be with a partner who has the same values you do. But if not, then you have to, I mean you hear it all the time like, why?
Dr Daniel Amen: When your behavior is not getting you what you want, you should be thinking about the brain. And now, hopefully after listening to these podcasts, you're going, "Oh my goodness. I fell out of a second-story window when I was seven. Do you think that counts?" Probably. Stay with us. When we come back we're gonna talk about more, especially healing from traumatic brain injuries.
Tana Amen: If you're enjoying the Brain Warrior's Way Podcast, please don't forget to subscribe so you'll always know when there's a new episode. And while you're at it, feel free to give us a review or five-star rating as that helps others find the podcast.
Dr Daniel Amen: For more information, give us a call at 855-978-1363.