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Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen talk with director Jerri Sher about the various methods used to treat traumatic brain injury, including transcranial magnetic stimulation and hyperbaric oxygen.
Daniel Amen, MD:
Welcome to the Brain Warrior’s way podcast. I’m Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
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.
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Welcome back. We are here with our friend, Jerri Sher, writer, director, producer of Quiet Explosions. I love this movie. It’s so important. I actually got to do the opening voiceover for it. I didn’t know. When we got to preview the movie I’m like, “I recognize that voice. I like that voice.”
I like the voice too.
So the big myth that people have is you can’t treat traumatic brain injury. They send people home to rest and it’s like…
It’s like if you had a broken arm, would you just go home and rest?
You would not. You would put it in a healing environment. I love the movie. The movie talks about transcranial magnetic stimulation. It talks about hyperbaric oxygen. It talks about natural supplements. It talks about balancing hormones. What a lot of people don’t know is if you’ve had a traumatic brain injury, it’s jostled your pituitary gland and all of your hormones can become out of whack.
So when my mother fell, and she had a really nasty fall, they tested her hormones because we told them they had to test her hormones. Because most people don’t know. She had none, zero, zip. Everything was flat. They had to replace everything
So important. Jerri, talk about the hope that you saw, and we can dive in a little bit to each of these treatment modalities.
Well, the biggest hope is amazing. Now the firefighter, Sebastian, who had hyperbaric oxygen therapy in New York every single day for like six to nine months with Doctor Allen Cher… He could not even put a sentence together after he was so traumatized from 9-11, because he was pulling out all of the bodies of his fellow firefighters. He was completely a wreck. This guy could not speak. He was really in bad shape.
Dr. Allen Cher said, let’s put you in hyperbaric. He treated him for nine to twelve months. He still treats them. This man now is like another human being. The kindest soul. I mean, he helps other people. We are just so grateful that Dr. Cher in San Francisco told us about his father, Dr. Cher in New York. Then he told us about the firefighter, Sebastian.
The hope is that not only are these people well again, but now they’re helping other people. Each person of the move is doing something so fabulous to give back because they’re so grateful that they have their lives back. I mean, look at Mark Rypien. A quarterback, who he built a pediatric hospital in Spokane to help children. I mean, this man has a heart of gold. We toured the hospital and spoke to some of the families. What he has done to help society and through Dr. Amens clinic and working on TMS, which is transcranial magnetic stimulation through Dr. Sammons in Colorado, he’s getting better. It’s remarkable.
Yeah. That’s awesome.
Hyperbaric oxygen. Had you ever heard of that before you did the movie?
I did not. You know what? People don’t know about it. Most people don’t know about it. In 10 years it’ll be more common, sort of like what CTE and MRI was like 30 years ago. But unfortunately Americans don’t know about it. It’s very prevalent in Israel. It’s huge in Israel. I mean, they put 200 people in a chamber at once and they have 10,000 people on the waiting list.
Wow. Well, when we… because we’ve got them in our clinics and when COVID happened and no one was coming in to use it, I’m like, we’re moving one to my house because I love it so much. They weren’t being used so I’m like, I’m going to use one. I moved it to my house because I needed to do it. I love it because I’m not claustrophobic. In fact, I love being in the little cocoon and it’s like, that was my way during COVID when there was so many people in the house, it’s like, I get to get away from everybody. This is my little meditation spot. It was like, it’s so amazing. I feel so much better.
I first learned about it maybe 15, 20 years ago. I was at a conference with [Mike Usler [00:05:36]. Mike was a nuclear medicine professor at UCLA and he showed me before and after SPECT scans of people who were in hyperbaric chambers. SPECT is a study we do at Amen clinics. It looks at blood flow and activity. It looks at how the brain works. They were so much better. I’ve been following the research and we do it at Amen clinics. It’s just so helpful. There are virtually no side effects. That’s what they taught us in medical school, first do no harm. Use the least toxic, most effective treatment. So heal with oxygen under a little bit of pressure. Why not? I remember my dad, he wasn’t doing well. He started to… Remember, he was having these nightmares? At night he was seeing things. I scanned him and he had low blood flows in his brain. Put him in a hyperbaric chamber and it just brightened his brain up.
I published this study on soldiers who were involved in blast injuries and significant increased blood flow to the brain. We published it in the journal Neurotrauma, but then the traditional brain imaging doctors like, “Oh, don’t believe that, it’s placebo.” It’s like, look at the scans before and after.
You can see it. More than you can see it. You can feel it. I mean, that’s the important thing is when people are functioning better, that’s what’s important.
Oxygen is free. Like they say in the movie, the reason that it’s not talked about so much is it’s not a pharma company where they’re going to make money to sell more drugs and more pharmaceuticals. It’s sort of a catch 22. This happens in life in many industries, I should know. Eventually though people are going to realize… And I believe, I’m pretty sure that in the military for anyone in the military, there’s a way to do it for free through various VA Hospitals.
Yeah, probably. Because the machines themselves are where the expense lies… is in the actual machine because it’s got to go under pressure. But probably for the VA, I would think that soldiers have an advantage to be able to get them.
Well and then… There’s hyperbaric oxygen, transcranial magnetic stimulation, which is becoming way more popular. There are TMS centers all over the world now. We’re basically using energy, magnetic fields, to either increase activity in the brain or to decrease activity in the brain. You told some stories of how incredibly helpful that was.
Well, Mike Rypien… I was just so grateful that he actually let us sit in on one of his sessions and film it while he was having TMS. It was so ironic because we were in Spokane, Washington and that would happen to be the day, which is once every three months, that Dr. Sammons comes to Spokane. We got to meet him and see him and interview him. Honestly the magnetic stimulation that was happening in Mark’s brain, which sounded almost like a woodpecker to me at the time… He swears by it. Mark Rypien said this really brought him back to life. I mean, this was one of the methods and he’s used many methods and also been seen at the Amen clinics. He really felt, and he’ll go every now and then every few months for like a pickup kind of thing, he just wears by it. And Dr. Sammons is having tremendous, tremendous positivity with other patients as well.
Well, in our experience, especially when you do scan-guided TMS to really have a sense of should I stimulate it or calm it, that that’s important. Then you develop a very special relationship with Mark Gordon, who’s an endocrinologist that helps balance people’s hormones. That’s a major part of getting people well again.
How did you meet Dr. Gordon?
Well, he was written up in the book that Andrew wrote and when I read the book, I was taken with Andrew Marr, but I was more taken with this doctor who lived in my backyard in Encino. They’re saying he’s a neuroendocrinologist and here he’s helping this guy. I’m like, this does not make any sense to me. I have to find out more about this because it’s so compelling and it could help so many people.
When I first met Dr. Gordon, I just couldn’t believe that an endocrinologist had figured this all out because Andrew was really very severe. I mean, he was one of the sickest persons of the movie and this guy who was a Green Beret and helping people… was a blast guy. He would blast buildings in Iraq, Afghanistan, and blow them up. All of these blasts, these IEDs were happening near his head.
So months later he couldn’t function at all. I mean, he was severe. He’d be in a closet in the fetal position, just rocking, crying for like 12 hours. His wife was so scared. He tried to take his life a few times. He had tried every modality. When he finally… Mark Gordon reached out to him when he heard about it. Then he said, “Oh, what the heck. It’s another person. I’ll just try it.” He just thought at this point, no one could help him.
When Mark looked at his blood work, it was so astounding that he was missing all of these 18 hormones in his brain. The minute they started replenishing it, Andrew said he felt like Cinderella, like putting my slippers on because his whole life had come back to him.
It’s like Lazarus. It’s crazy. That’s not a surprise to us because we see it all the time. I mean, I saw it with my own mother who was just circling the drain at one point, it wasn’t good. Then she just like bounced back. I mean, we know how important that is. You’ve got to get… What I love about this, what we’re talking about is it’s not one thing. You need to really check all of it. It’s bio-psycho-social spiritual. You need to really look at all of those circles.
Well, we developed the pneumonic BRIGHT MINDS. If you want to keep your brain healthy or rescue it, that’s headed to the dark place. You have to prevent or treat the 11 major risk factors that steal your mind. Like blood flow and retirement and aging and inflammation and genetics and head trauma and toxins. The N is neuro hormone disorders. I’ve just seen this epidemic of low testosterone in young men and it’s horrifying.
Part of it’s our diet, but it could be head injury.
Part of it is toxins. I don’t know, Jerri, if you saw the new study, we should have done that on Brain in the News, that the size of male genitals is decreasing because of the exposure to toxins. That people who had a higher environmentally toxic load had a lower sperm count, which is devastating for young families, and smaller genitals, which would just horrify everybody. Hormones matter. All 11 of those risk factors matter. But a lot of people in psychiatry never think about DHEA, testosterone, progesterone, estrogen, prolactin, and so on.
Right. You go after a lot of that in this movie, you really address a lot of the things that happen that most people don’t address. In Quiet Explosions… I love the movie, we went to the premiere and I just thought it was great… But what I thought was so interesting is that you didn’t just go at it from a very traditional medical perspective. It was like, we’re going to address all of these things that don’t normally get addressed. Those patients got well. That was just a really cool thing to see, and that’s what we see is, you have to think outside the box. You’ve got to be looking at all of it.
Day in and day out. Now that we’re in the middle of this pandemic, COVID-19 is going to become one of those risk factors. The second I in BRIGHT MINDS is immunity and infections, which obviously we’re dealing with.
So maybe that will be something you work on next.
Well, there are wonderful things happening and I’m in talks and discussions with people. I never worry about the next thing because honestly the right thing happens, what I’m supposed to do next. I really believe in my heart and the universe. What I’m trying to do is I’m trying to give people a compelling story that entertains them, but at the same time, educates them.
Different from maybe going to a lecture or a different from reading a book. It’s just, look, they say a picture is worth a thousand words. That’s exactly what happens in these movies that I make because there’s four frames in a second and we have visuals, we have animation and we have music and we have all of these elements that form in your brain. It really is indelible in there. People learn a lot from the movie, just as much as they would if they were to read a book.
They do, and you become attached to the outcomes of the people in it, and that’s really cool. I remember, I was fortunate to be at the premiere so I got to meet them, and that was just awesome. But even in the movie, you’re on the journey with them. You’re seeing the pain and you’re feeling their pain and just what they’ve lost. Then you’re watching them just come back. I think for so many of us, we’ve got people in our families and that’s what we want. We want that hope. It gives you that hope to be able to see people come back.
Well, when we come back, we’re going to talk more about hope and how you are not stuck with the brain you have, that you can make it better and in Quiet Explosions, healing the brain, Jerri just does a masterful job of giving people hope. Stay with us.
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