Frontal Lobes: How Do They Shape Your Behavior? with Dr. Earl Henslin

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

Thirty years of brain SPECT imaging has clearly shown us that disfunction in different parts of the brain require different types of treatment. One of the most often affected areas is the brain’s frontal lobes, which are responsible for things like forethought, judgement, and impulse control. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen are joined by Dr. Earl Henslin for a discussion on how to identify if you have frontal lobe problems (and other common areas of the brain), and what you can do to treat them.

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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. I'm Dr. 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 or 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 personalized 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. Tana and I are here with our good friend, Dr. Earl Henslin, psychologist, author, trainer, coach, who, outside of us at Amen Clinics, has ordered more scans and used them in clinical practice with literally thousands of patients. From little kids to old people, everybody in between.
Before we get to talking to Earl, I want to read one of the podcast reviews. And don't forget, if you leave a review at or on Apple iTunes, we'll enter you in for a drawing for a free cookbook from Tana. This is from Kathleen. "I absolutely love listening to you guys." Thank you. "I became a brain warrior and lost a hundred pounds-
Tana Amen: Wow.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... and got off nine medications. Went to Amen Clinics after mold exposure and got the Bachelor's and Master's degree I was told were impossible for me. 2.8 GPA in high school in 1990, five failed attempts at college over a 20-year period. I'm about to start a degree program I never dreamed of, my doctorate. I'm 47 and it's never late to change your brain." Making me cry.
"I am also doing a brain coach certification course through Amen Clinics. When my mental health miracle happened, it was basically because my chiropractor had read research done at Amen Clinics and taught me what he knew about diet and exercise and supplements like vitamins and fish oil-" we just talked about that, " ... to change your brain. Prior to Amen Clinics, I'd been wrongfully diagnosed with bipolar disorder."
Obviously with anybody not looking at your brain. "It was worth the trip to get that off my record and find out I really had two forms of ADD, mold toxicity, and an adjustment disorder, not bipolar. No wonder the bipolar meds didn't work and fish oil, chiropractic et cetera worked. Thank you a million times over for all you guys do."
Tana Amen: That's awesome.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I know you've heard stories like that a lot, and that's why you've referred so many patients to us. But what I want to talk about in this podcast is how you use the scans in psychotherapy.
Tana Amen: Yeah. And what kind of therapy do you use, do you find most effective, and how does that correlate to the information you get back with the scan? That's what I'm curious about.
Dr. Earl H.: Yeah. To me, it's always important to match the model to the person and what their needs are and so on. So, I do anything from inter-child work to deal with trauma, to EMDR, to thought-field therapy which is using acupressure points and dealing with different emotional issues, even to some psychoanalytic work.
Because at that very first seminar with Dr. Amen, what struck me was that I knew if we could get a look at the brain it was going to help change relapse rates for alcoholics, drug addicts, and sex addicts.
And so far in these 25 years, only a hundred percent of the time when I referred somebody for that type of scan did it show up with some injury in the frontal cortex and the temporal lobes.
Tana Amen: Very interesting.
Dr. Earl H.: Yeah. And so there's an area in the frontal cortex, it's called the orbital frontal cortex, that has to do with impulse control and conscience. And so when a person gets a craving for alcohol and drugs or for sex, then they don't access that belief system. Where it fits with therapy, and just about every addict I've ever worked with there's some history of trauma. They grew up in an alcoholic home where there was physical, verbal abuse, or emotional abuse of some type.
In my field, the model is that if you work enough on those issues somehow you're magically not going to want to X, fill in the blank, turn to porn, alcohol, and drugs or whatever. But what I found out is that left and right basal ganglia, the anxiety part of the brain, if I could calm down and help them improve the blood flow in the front part of the brain, then when I did an EMDR intervention or even an inner-child experience ... Because you've got to have good profusion of blood flow all the way through here to actually connect with the feeling and then articulate it.
Tana Amen: Interesting.
Dr. Earl H.: Because if that basal ganglia gets too high then the profusion drops off-
Dr. Daniel Amen: The basal ganglia, for people who don't know, these large structures deep in the brain that are responsive to dopamine. And when it's too high you feel anxious, and when it's too low you have ADD symptoms and you can be unmotivated. And you're one of the few psychologists in the world that really believe, "I need to balance your brain because therapy will go better, it will go faster-
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... if your-
Dr. Earl H.: Exactly.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... brain works right, and without that you're not going to be as effective." And so you will often tell your patients, I love this, that, "This is going to save you money in the long-run because we're going to be able to do therapy with a brain that works better-
Dr. Earl H.: Exactly.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... rather than trying to do software programming on a brain that has hardware problems."
Tana Amen: Right. That's what I was going to say, is that we often refer to it as hardware and software. So, the brain is the hardware and the soul and what you're trying to accomplish with therapy is software.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And so-
Dr. Earl H.: Exactly.
Dr. Daniel Amen: When people have low frontal function ... You and I have both seen thousands of people like that.
Dr. Earl H.: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: What are generally the things their partner says about them?
Dr. Earl H.: Oh, well, they get frustrated because they might start something, never finish it. They're going to have a hard time remembering. They might promise their spouse they're going to pick up flowers or something, but they won't remember it because they'll distracted to someplace else.
And particularly for the men I work with, they're just not emotionally available because now they're turning to video games or turning to staring at their phone, or any number of things just to wake up the brain and improve that dopamine with those kinds of activities. Which takes them emotionally out of the family, so they're not there for their son, they're not there for their daughter.
And then for kids, it's like they see dad going from one thing to another and feeling like he's so busy, he's got to do this, he's got to do that. And they're right there all the time for the father to show an interest, take stock and take the time and spend it with them, listen to them and so on.
Because the dad or mom really, unless that anxiety part of the brain is in balance and that front part of the brain is working, they're not going to be able to listen. They're not going to be able to empathize with that child or connect with them at an emotional level. And they're not going to recognize the signs in them, that there might be some sadness or hurt or anger that they want to respond to. Because if they're in that ADD flurry of activity ...
Or then there's the dad who's got some injury in the temporal lobes and can snap and just became explosive.
In the first year of scans, there were 30 couples I had referred up to Fairfield, and every one of them either the wife or the husband had anger problems and addiction problems and they'd been through rehab centers and treatment centers and so on.
And as of probably, the last time I checked, about 15 years ago, 27 out of the 30 are still married.
Tana Amen: Wow.
Dr. Earl H.: But couples and children are going from walking on pins and needles, afraid, "If I say or do the wrong thing that dad's just going to turn it into a major issue too."
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, and his low frontal lobes causes emotional trauma in the wife and in the children.
Dr. Earl H.: Exactly.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And when we scan their brains, it has that diamond pattern. You were going to say something?
Tana Amen: No.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Oh. So, balancing their brain is so important. Let's talk about when their cingulate works too hard. Cingulate is in the front part of the brain. It's often thought of as the brain's gear-shifter.
It lets you go from thought to thought, move from idea to idea. What have you seen working with couples when the front part of their brain isn't low, that it's really high in activity?
Dr. Earl H.: Yeah. The thing about the cingulate to me that's so fascinating is when couples come in and they get into arguing and they throw in things that happened 25, 30 years ago, and so all those hurts and angers from back then are present, and they will do that in a circular, cyclical way.
And so what I noticed, that when we got the cingulate, the basal ganglia, left-right scan, they calmed down and got more serotonin to the cingulate.
Then, that resentment might come up, but then they'd say, internally they'd say, "Oh, I forgave them for that and I have to leave that in the past." But prior to that it was just boom, right there, and it was just as fresh as if they had done it actually ...
Because when people rehearse those resentments, they literally reproduce the whole body chemistry, the neurotransmitters, the hormones, and everything of that moment, and they have that same intensity going on.
And then what can happen with the other person, it's almost like a constant PTSD battle back and forth. Now one's person's triggering the other and they're both out of control.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: You know, when I see it I often think about in their head they have a little mouse on an exercise wheel and the mouse can't get off.
Dr. Earl H.: No.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And the mouse is mad and it's huffing and puffing. And often they'll use marijuana, or they'll lose alcohol, or they'll use pain medication, to just get the mouse to shut up.
Dr. Earl H.: Exactly.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And that's not helpful. There are other things to do that are more helpful. Because when they use those things, they will drop their cingulate, but they'll also drop their front lobe, and then they'll make impulsive, stupid decisions that don't hope. Our daughter, Chloe, when we scanned her, her front part of her brain was so busy, and you could just see how she gets stuck.
Tana Amen: It changed so much about how I was able to communicate with her.
Dr. Earl H.: Oh yeah.
Tana Amen: And parent. And I was like, "Oh, I've been given her the wrong supplements. I haven't tried a stimulator."
Dr. Earl H.: Exactly.
Tana Amen: But if you don't look at it, you know?
Dr. Earl H.: No, you just don't know.
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Dr. Earl H.: One man came in. His wife was ready to divorce him because he couldn't stay sober from his particular addiction. Late 40s, having memory problems. He had to put stickies all over the place. Now, normally when you see an anger problem you start to look at his background, which was filled with traumas.
And from a therapist standpoint it's so easy to look at it just in terms of trauma, and then start working on it. But I had him scanned right away and did some memory testing, and here he was headed for dementia because of staying in his addiction and not getting sober and the multiple head traumas.
And he was in the 51st percentile and was almost looking at having to retire early. Well, we got the brain working and then he was able to start to actually deal with the trauma and actually heal from it. And he started to stay sober.
And one session he came in, and he looked at me and said, "Okay doctor, what in the world is going on with me?" I said, "What do you mean?" "Well, I sat down with my daughters and watched a Disney movie with them." Now, see, before that his intensity and anxiety was such he wouldn't-
Tana Amen: There's no way.
Dr. Earl H.: ... even sit down and do that. "I sat there and I watched that movie, and I cried. What's going on with me?"
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Earl H.: I said, "Are things are better with your wife?" and he just says, "Oh man, are they ever?" But that's what I mean, just that whole-
Dr. Daniel Amen: Get your brain right and your mind follows.
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Dr. Earl H.: Yeah.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Get your brain right. You know, you actually had one of my favorite sayings I stole from you, which is, "No forethought equals no foreplay." It's right. If your frontal lobes don't work, or they work too hard, and you're not present, you can't imagine what's going on with your partner, then you're not going to get lucky.
Dr. Earl H.: Well, one of the things I stole from you is that you don't need to say everything that comes to your mind.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Earl H.: Because in my field it's like expression is everything, being able to articulate it. No one says, "Oh, don't say that, it's only going to have this effect."
So, there are many therapists, by not intending any harm of course, but they don't stop people.
Because I've learned, there's times I've had to act like the frontal cortex for the patient when they don't have any and they're just being impulsive.
Tana Amen: It's like, "What is the benefit of that going to be?"
Dr. Earl H.: Exactly.
Tana Amen: "Are you going to get what you want?"
Dr. Daniel Amen: Jerry Seinfeld once said, "The brain is a sneaky organ."
Dr. Earl H.: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: We all have weird, crazy, stupid, sexual, violent thoughts that nobody should ever hear.
Dr. Earl H.: Exactly.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And your frontal lobes, it plays it out. It's like, "If I say that, is that a good thing or not a good thing?"
When we come back, we're going to talk about some stories of transformation that Dr. Henslin has been witness to.
So, what did you learn? Post that. What did you learn in this podcast or the one before? Post it on any of your social media channels and go to, or on iTunes. Leave a review and we'll automatically enter you into a drawing for a free book.
Tana Amen: And be sure to share this if it was helpful to you at all. If you know someone suffering, if they're having family dynamic issues or they've had a head injury and you know they're having problems, share this with someone.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And also Earl, how can they learn more about you? What books would you recommend? What's your website?
Dr. Earl H.: Well, the Brain on Joy books is the one that I really like the most. And any time anybody reads that, they seem to be motivated to get scanned because it puts it into understandable website. And my website's
Dr. Daniel Amen: D-R-H-E-N-S-L-I-N.
Dr. Earl H.: You got it.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Stay with us.
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 5-star rating, as that helps others find the podcast.
Dr. Daniel Amen: If you're considering coming to Amen Clinics, or trying some of the brain-healthy supplements from BrainMD, you can use the code Podcast10 to get a 10% discount on a full evaluation at, or a 10% discount on all supplements at For more information, give us a call at 855-978-1363.