Here’s How Lyme Disease Can Damage Your Brain

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

In continuation of our coverage of The End of Mental Illness Live Class from January, this episode of the podcast features more content on how to prevent or treat the 11 major risk factors that steal your mind. Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen discuss the phenomenon of “mindstorms” and how they pushed a sweet 9 year-old boy to the brink of suicide. The Amens then discuss how certain infections can sneak into your biological system and secretly create havoc in your brain and body.

To take The End of Mental Illness Brain Health Revolution 6 Week Class and Challenge, visit

Read Full Transcript

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.

Daniel Amen, MD:

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, BSN RN:

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:              Hi, this is Dr. Daniel Amen.

Tana Amen:                      And I’m Tana Amen.

Dr Daniel Amen:              We’re so excited you’re with us. For this week’s series, what we’re doing is we’re playing the live class from The End of Mental Illness.

Tana Amen:                      We wanted you to join us on this journey because we had such a good time in our class and the people who joined us had just saw such incredible transformation that we wanted to share the challenge with our tribe. So we wanted to share this with you, and we hope that you will join us in the challenge.

Dr Daniel Amen:              When I was a medical student, 1980 I think it was, Jack Dreyfus, who’s the famous founder of the Dreyfus Mutual Fund, he had seen psychiatrists for a long time. He struggled with anxiety and depression and suicidal thoughts, and he read about an antiseizure medication called Dilantin. He said he convinced his psychiatrist to give him a couple of doses of it. He said within three days he didn’t need his psychiatrist anymore.

Tana Amen:                      Oh wow.

Dr Daniel Amen:              The suicidal thoughts went away, his depression went away, his anxiety went away. And he wrote a book that I read called, A Wonderful Medication Has Been Overlooked, and he was talking about the use of antiseizure medications in psychiatry. Now is that a mental illness?

Tana Amen:                      Or a brain illness?

Dr Daniel Amen:              Or a brain illness? What do you think?

Tana Amen:                      I think like a lot of things that we look at here-

Dr Daniel Amen:              It’s a brain illness. And that’s when I started reading Dietrich Bloomer’s work from Emory on temporal lobe dysrhythmias, which means the rhythm doesn’t fire right, and it just changed my practice. I have so many great stories about mind-storms and this is one of my favorite ones. I actually open the revised version of Change Your Brain, Change Your Life with Tommy’s story.

Dr Daniel Amen:              He came to see us from Orlando, Florida, nine years old, and he wasn’t on my schedule. He was going to see one of the other doctors, and my assistant said, “You have to go meet Tommy.” When I found him, he recognized me. He said, “Hey, Dr. Amen. I have a left temporal lobe problem.” I’m like, “Really? How do you know that?” He said, “I read the book. I took the checklist in the book.” And I’m like, “But how do you really know that?” And he said, “I have a really bad temper. And you say people have bad tempers have temporal lobe problems.” It’s true. “And I used to see ghosts.” I’m like, “What?” He said, “I used to see these green things float in front of my eyes, and I thought they were ghosts. And they would scare me. And then when I read your book, I realize those are illusions that people who have temporal lobe problems get.”

Dr Daniel Amen:              So a lot of people diagnosed with schizophrenia, they’ll say, “I see things.” But the doctor doesn’t go, “Tell me about that.” I mean, sometimes people will have hallucinations of clear formed images of somebody yelling at them or-

Tana Amen:                      Speaking to them in voice… Like hearing voices. But that just reminds me of someone that we know that we’ve been trying to help recently who was starting to develop paranoia, thinking that she was being followed because of these lights. She’d see these lights coming out of the ground. Is that sort of what you’re talking about?

Dr Daniel Amen:              Yeah.

Tana Amen:                      No voices, no people just she thought there were… Because there were lights, there must be someone behind it.

Dr Daniel Amen:              And for her, she actually has this thing called the Irlen Syndrome.

Tana Amen:                      But does she have a left temporal lobe thing as well?

Dr Daniel Amen:              Well, she had 19 car accidents so one might suspect. But Tommy, I’m talking to Tommy and he looked at me with his big beautiful blue eyes, and he said, “In last year to get rid of the bad thoughts in my head, I tried to kill myself,” which is broke my heart. Oh no. My youngest patient I tried to kill himself was four.

Tana Amen:                      Intentionally.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Intentionally. Yeah. Because he was so depressed. I mean, you don’t think children can be depressed.

Tana Amen:                      No. Well, I know they can be depressed.

Dr Daniel Amen:              … can be depressed and have suicidal ideation. And you got to wonder what’s going on in their brain. And they basically say I’m insane because I want to look at the brain, but I don’t think so. And when we looked at his scan, the arrow is pointing to his left temporal lobe, which is hurt. So he has this thing called mind-storms.

Tana Amen:                      So he was right.

Dr Daniel Amen:              He was right. And so how do we treat it? Sometimes we’ll use antiseizure medications. The ketogenic diet. And actually I’m going to do an interview on our podcast, check out our podcast, Brain Warrior’s Way podcast, coming up soon with Doctor Josh Axe, who wrote on the ketogenic diet. And sometimes neurofeedback can help. We’ve seen it just helped so many people.

Dr Daniel Amen:              So that’s the M, either mental health issues or mind-storms. The I is immunity or infections. And did I tell you they released episode five?

Tana Amen:                      Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr Daniel Amen:              So yesterday they released episode five and Justin Bieber’s new docu-series seasons, and that’s the episode I’m in. I may be in one of the ones coming up. We filmed for a long time. But Justin had the mind-storms. So he had that temporal lobe dysrhythmia that I talked about. He actually has a lot of these risk factors.

Tana Amen:                      Well you got to imagine someone who tours that much isn’t sleeping, isn’t eating right, isn’t taking care of themselves. They’re just set up for it.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Yeah. So he had low blood flow. Retirement and aging doesn’t apply because he’s young except he had ADD when he was a child. And when you have ADD, learning is painful for you. And the retirement and aging strategy is new learning. But he didn’t have the attention span for that. I is for inflammation. He had high inflammatory markers. G is genetics. He had a family history of depression and addiction. H is head trauma. He had three concussions when he was young. T is toxins. He started using marijuana when he was 13 years old.

Tana Amen:                      He talks very openly about his drug use. And it’s pretty crazy. I mean, he got to where he was doing drugs to go to sleep, doing drugs to wake up, doing drugs to get through the day. I mean, he was doing that lean, cough syrup, crazy stuff that kids do now and just crazy stuff all day long.

Dr Daniel Amen:              So out of the first six risk factors, he’s got virtually all of them. And then he had mind-storms and he came out publicly and said he had Lyme disease. Actually, it’s more complicated than that. But he had this thing called an autoimmune encephalitis, which means his immune system turned on itself and actually saw his brain as the enemy.

Tana Amen:                      Yeah, it was crazy.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Started attacking it. He had antibodies to his own dopamine receptors.

Tana Amen:                      I just remember how sad it was because I remember long after he stopped doing drugs, that kid was just trying so hard to do everything. But it was like his brain was fighting him. It was just so sad.

Dr Daniel Amen:              And so immunity infections are really important. So he came out publicly and said he had Lyme disease. There are also other infections like toxoplasmosis, which is a parasite you get from cats who eat infected rats, and toxoplasmosis has been associated with Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, suicidal thoughts. And I just thought I’d share this with you.

Tana Amen:                      You love this story.

Dr Daniel Amen:              I love this stuff. So toxoplasmosis, it’s a parasite. You can see it in the upper right corner. Somebody’s asking, “What are you two drinking?” It’s not vodka.

Tana Amen:                      It’s tea.

Dr Daniel Amen:              It’s tea.

Tana Amen:                      It’s non-caffeinated herbal tea.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Toxoplasmosis infects many animals, but it can actually only sexually reproduce in cats. And so it’s looking, this parasite is looking for cats. So when it infects a rat, it turns the rat into a cat seeking missile.

Tana Amen:                      That’s just the craziest thing.

Dr Daniel Amen:              So toxo releases that chemical in the rats nucleus accumbens and hooks the rat on cat urine. And so typically when a rat smells cat, it’s like-

Tana Amen:                      They try to avoid them.

Dr Daniel Amen:              It’s like danger, danger, danger, and it avoids them. But when it’s infected by toxo, toxo hijacks the rats’ pleasure centers to make it fall in love with something that will hurt it. Do you see any connection to drug abuse?

Tana Amen:                      Heroin.yes.

Dr Daniel Amen:              To heroin.

Tana Amen:                      Yeah.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Right. And so the rat goes toward the cat rather than away from it. So the cat then eats the rat and toxo gets in the cat and gets to have sex and reproduce. It’s the classic tale of eat, pray, love.

Tana Amen:                      Really.

Dr Daniel Amen:              I love that.

Tana Amen:                      Yeah.

Dr Daniel Amen:              So who’s really in control of your life?

Tana Amen:                      Parasites.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Parasites can hijack your brain. Well, I mean, are we in control or is your microbiome in control? The hundred trillion bugs you have in your gut. And when you were young, because of the stress, you were-

Tana Amen:                      Antibiotics.

Dr Daniel Amen:              And all of the antibiotics, you had upper and lower GIs by the time you were four.

Tana Amen:                      Yeah, I was a frequent flyer at the hospital.

Dr Daniel Amen:              And so your unhealthy microbiome was controlling your anxiety, right? When you were nine, you had separation anxiety or having panic attacks. You were sort of a mess.

Tana Amen:                      Yeah, mono at nine.

Dr Daniel Amen:              And when I asked you about gut and early trauma-

Tana Amen:                      Don’t shrink me. Don’t trick me.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Listen, shrinking you. I was trying to get your microbiome healthy.

Tana Amen:                      I’m a trauma nurse. Don’t shrink me.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Anyways before and after, your brain can heal.

Tana Amen:                      I have seen the light.

Dr Daniel Amen:              So one of my favorite all time stories, actually Deb’s mother may be watching. Adriana’s mother may be watching. Adriana, beautiful, smart.

Tana Amen:                      I love this story. It’s one of my favorite stories.

Dr Daniel Amen:              16. Her family goes to one of the national parks on vacation, and when they get to their cabin, they’re surrounded by six deer.

Tana Amen:                      I mean, most of us would think of this as a magical moment.

Dr Daniel Amen:              And they thought of it as a magical moment. But 10 days later, Adriana starts hallucinating and becomes aggressive. And she’s never acted like this before, but she has an uncle that had spent 25 years in the Napa State Hospital, one of the state’s psychiatric hospitals in California for schizophrenia. I’ll tell you the rest of that story in a bit. So what is the family do? They take her to a psychiatric hospital. I mean, that’s what people do, right? If you show up to the emergency room and you’re hearing things and you’re aggressive, they’ll commit you to a psychiatric hospital.

Tana Amen:                      Well, first they’re going to give you a bunch of meds. They’re going to make you feel more-

Dr Daniel Amen:              Medications didn’t work. So she then went to another hospital and then they went to Stanford. And the doctor at Stanford told the mother that she needed to accept the fact that Adriana had schizophrenia and that she would have to take-

Tana Amen:                      Is 16 really young?

Dr Daniel Amen:              … this medication for the rest of her life. And Deb, the mother was having none of that. No, schizophrenia can start… I mean, the typical age is 19. Paranoid schizophrenia, more late 20s.

Tana Amen:                      That’s what I thought.

Dr Daniel Amen:              But the mom was having none of it. It ended up bringing her to us literally after Adriana-

Tana Amen:                      Wait, wait, wait. You skipped a whole part of the story. Wasn’t she like in a hospital for a while, dropped out of high school. Wasn’t this like a whole thing?

Dr Daniel Amen:              She was sick and six months later, she’s a shell of herself.

Tana Amen:                      That doesn’t even look like the same kid.

Dr Daniel Amen:              And she came to see us and her brain’s on fire. And thank goodness one of my doctors go, “Why is her brain on fire?” And heard the history of the deers because Lyme comes often from deer ticks. And not everybody shows up positive. Only about 50% of people can you actually find lab evidence for it. But she had lab evidence for it. And on an antibiotic over the next year, she got her life back.

Tana Amen:                      Such a pretty girl.

Dr Daniel Amen:              She is such a pretty girl.

Tana Amen:                      But she went to Pepperdine. She ends up graduating from Pepperdine.

Dr Daniel Amen:              So she ends up grad… Yeah, so is this a mental illness?

Tana Amen:                      Then she went to the University of London, right?

Dr Daniel Amen:              Got a master’s degree.

Tana Amen:                      Yeah. She would have spent her life going down the psychiatric hold to hell.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Well and so yes. And now beautiful, normal every day about noon, I get a text from her mother, “How can I pray for you today?” So her mother has gone through so much of my own life crises, right? My mom broke her hip. My mom has shingles, and she’s always praying. But just-

Tana Amen:                      The story just hit me so hard because it’s like as someone who has a child that’s was around… I can’t imagine your child starts to suffer this much and you’re told to put your child in a hospital. You’re never going to see them graduate from school. You’re never going to see them get married and make a family.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Well, the doctor wouldn’t say that. But to say you’re going to have to be on psychiatric medication for the rest of your life in a place like Stanford without ever looking at the brain, without ever looking at well, what are the other causes of psychosis [crosstalk [00:00:16]:32]-

Tana Amen:                      But most of us think of paranoid schizophrenia as being pretty extreme. So that’s going to change your life big time. And when I hear the story and I’m like, “Wow.” And then you see this picture of her graduating, that’s pretty intense.

Dr Daniel Amen:              It’s pretty intense. And her uncle who was hospitalized for 25 years at Napa State Hospital, and his sister was trying to get him out. And basically had to go to court to do it. Showed up with co-infections for Lyme. And you just wonder how many people are being diagnosed with mental illnesses when they have brain health issues.

Dr Daniel Amen:              So I talk about it a lot in the End of Mental Illness. I would dearly love you to pre order the book and then go to We have all sorts of gifts for you when you pre order the book, including a coupon for 50% off at Brain MD, our supplement company, along with the cookbook you did, The 10 Day Brain Boost and so on. So End of Mental Illness is one of my favorite stories in it.

Tana Amen:                      If you’re enjoying the Brain Warrior’s Way podcast, please 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.

Daniel Amen, MD: If you’re considering coming to Amen Clinics or trying some of the brain healthy supplements from BrainMD, you can use the code podcast 10 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.