One Traumatic Brain Injury Can Ruin Your Life and Here’s How

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

Did you know that your brain is about the consistency of soft butter, and that it’s housed in a skull with sharp, bony ridges? There’s no way around it: our brains are fragile and easily damaged. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen discuss the major risk factors for brain injury, as well as what to do if you’ve already had one.


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Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warriors Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.

Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. Here we teach you how to win the fight for your brain to defeat anxiety, depression, memory loss, ADHD, and addictions.

Dr Daniel Amen: The Brain Warriors Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we've transformed lives for three decades using brain-spec imaging to better target treatment and natural ways to heal the brain. For more information, visit

Tana Amen: The Brain Warriors Way podcast is also brought to you by Brain MD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceutical products to support the health of your brain and body. For more information, visit

Welcome to the Brain Warriors Way podcast, and stay tuned for a special code for a discount to Amen Clinics for a full evaluation, as well as any of our supplements at

Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome back. There was a new study that I pulled to evaluate ... So, the study wanted to evaluate whether having a history of a brain injury was associated with Alzheimer's disease, and it tripled the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

People really just don't get it. Your brain is soft, about the consistency of soft butter. I didn't even know that.

Tana Amen: I know, because we think of it as being ... Like if you've gone to any sort of anatomy/physiology classes and medical or nursing school, you think of it as this rubber ball.

Dr Daniel Amen: As a nurse, did you ever do anatomy on cadavers?

Tana Amen: Not on cadavers, no, but we did see brains in formaldehyde, and so you think of it as this rubber ball.

Dr Daniel Amen: Firm, fixed, and rubbery.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: Right. Irma was my best friend, for years, she was my cadaver. She was 84, she's very cute. I got to really know her on the inside.

Tana Amen: I did do Alma, and Alma was a cat, and even as a cat, the brain was very rubbery, right, so-

Dr Daniel Amen: Yeah, and that's what happens to it when it's firmed, fixed, in formaldehyde, but when I started our brain imaging work in 1991, I'm like, "These brains were hurt," and then one of my friends, who's a neurosurgeon, said, "Did you know, the brain is really the consistency of soft butter?"

Tana Amen: That's amazing.

Dr Daniel Amen: Tofu, custard, somewhere between egg whites and jello. In fact, toothpaste is another thing they've described. When a neurosurgeon goes into your brain, he has to be very careful with the suction, because he doesn't want to suction up part of the tissue.

Tana Amen: I've actually been in neuro surgeries, because I'm a neurosurgical ICU nurse, I've been in a couple of-

Dr Daniel Amen: And you worked for Med-Tronics, where they-

Tana Amen: Right, doing deep brain simulation, and so the mapping is very precise, but you have to be very careful with suction.

Dr Daniel Amen: When you actually freshly harvest the brain, there's actually some very cool videos online, and you take that brain you've just taken out of someone's skull and put it on the table, it actually begins to fall-

Tana Amen: Oh, interesting.

Dr Daniel Amen: Toward the table. It's really interesting. So, your brain, that makes you who you are, your brain is involved in everything you do, how you think, how you feel, how you act, how you get along with other people, your brain is the organ of loving, learning, and behavior. It's the organ of intelligence, character, personality, and every single decision you make, and when it works right, you work right, and when the brain is troubled, you have trouble in your life.

Tana Amen: Well, I mean just think about, they used to do lobotomies. Come on. It should be fairly obvious.

Dr Daniel Amen: Do you know how they did those?

Tana Amen: No. Through the nose, or through the eyes.

Dr Daniel Amen: They would actually go through the upper wall of your orbits, above your eye, so they'd take an ice pick-

Tana Amen: Right through, yeah.

Dr Daniel Amen: And make a little hole, put an ice pick up in there, wiggle it around, sever many of the tracks between your frontal lobes and your emotional brain, and for some people, it was actually helpful. The guy that discovered it won the Nobel Prize.

Now, what they found out later is it just flattened people's personalities, so you were no longer yourself anymore, and that we have a whole bunch better ways to deal with people who get out of control.

Tana Amen: I mean, isn't that kind of making a zombie? Creating a zombie?

Dr Daniel Amen: Yes, but better than someone who's-

Tana Amen: So, maybe the zombie apocalypse is not what we think of it, we're going to do a bunch of lobotomies on people.

Dr Daniel Amen: Back on track. Your brain is soft. It creates who you are. It's housed in a really hard skull that has really sharp, bony ridges. All of that to say, your brain is easily damaged and many people are walking around with the chronic effects of traumatic brain injury.

I was on the radio this morning, and a professional football player actually called in and said, "My memory's problematic, what should I do?" And here at Amen Clinics, we did the world's largest study on active and retired NFL players, and what you just ...

Okay, so here's the plan. You have to prevent it to start. Right? It's like the same with toxins, the first thing to do is decrease exposure, the first thing with head injuries is limit them.

Tana Amen: Right, stop doing what you're doing.

Dr Daniel Amen: Which means do not let children hit soccer balls with their head. Do not let them play tackle football. We hired a new employee, and her son's playing tackle football, and she goes, "But I wouldn't want to tell him 'No.' I want him to decide that on his own."

And I looked at her. In my head, I'm sort of screaming at her, but I'm not screaming at her obviously, because I have good frontal lobe function that prevents me from acting inappropriately, most of the time.

Tana Amen: Most of the time, right? Let's clarify.

Dr Daniel Amen: So, I'm screaming at her inside my head, but I just looked at her, and I said, because he's 15, I said, "Well, what if he came home and said 'Hey, Mom, I want to do cocaine?'"

Tana Amen: "Will you get me a drug dealer?"

Dr Daniel Amen: "Would you get me a drug dealer?" And she'd go, "No, that would not be okay, I would tell him 'No.'" Okay, so I've done over a thousand scans on cocaine addicts, I've done over a thousand scans on people who've played football at some level, and the level of damage is about the same.

Tana Amen: Crazy.

Dr Daniel Amen: It's not a good thing. IN the United States, 2-million people, every year, have a reported new brain injury, and so there's so many that never get reported. That means that if you just believe that number, over the last 40 years, there are 80-million people walking around, so a quarter of the population, with chronic facts of traumatic brain injury.

Tana Amen: What you talked about, though, is a big issue, because a lot of this happens at that age, because parents start to step back. There's got to be a better way for parents to get involved at this level. We have this philosophy that you give kids the most control over their lives that is safe and age-appropriate.

Let me repeat that. That is safe and age-appropriate for the stage that they're at, right? So, you want them to make as many decisions as possible, for what is safe and age-appropriate. And you set boundaries.

There are some things, for example, for my daughter, it's like give her all of the lee-way and room that we can to make these decisions, until she comes up against something where it's not okay. She wants to go somewhere at night, walk down the street or whatever, it's like, not going to happen.

So, when I say it's not going to happen, she knows it's not going to happen, because I do give her a lot of control. When I put my foot down, it's a "No," and that's it, there's no arguing about it. But you give them as much room as you can that is safe and age-appropriate. You have to get clear in your head that it's not safe. If you don't actually believe that, then you're not going to do that. It's not safe.

So what part of that do we not understand?

Dr Daniel Amen: But the dad often will jump in and say, "Well, I played football, and I'm fine," and the mother is often rolling her eyes, going, "No, you're not fine, you could be better."

Tana Amen: Right, you're brain dead, you're brain injured.

Dr Daniel Amen: So, what do you do? If traumatic brain injury is a significant contributor to Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, what do you do? Okay, so you decrease exposure, you say, "No," to texting and driving, you say "No" to skiing without a helmet, and people go, "Oh, well, I'm not going to be a nerd." It's like, I'm here to tell you, even the helmet on is going to damage your brain if you have a bad fall, but at least you'll survive.

Tana Amen: Right, and you won't crack your skull. You're less likely to crack your skull.

Dr Daniel Amen: All, so even texting and walking, because-

Tana Amen: You'll trip.

Dr Daniel Amen: People are just getting into more accidents than ever before.

Aslan, whom you've heard us talk about on this show, is our white shepherd, who's gorgeous, but he doesn't get it.

Tana Amen: He's like a two-year-old.

Dr Daniel Amen: He leaves his toys out, that I could trip, and if something bad happens to me, something bad is going to happen to him.

Tana Amen: I don't think he really cares, because he doesn't understand, so-

Dr Daniel Amen: He doesn't care.

Tana Amen: No.

Dr Daniel Amen: So that means I have to be thoughtful and turn on the light when I walk into a room rather than think I know where everything is just because I think I can remember it. Being careful to prevent head injuries, and then put the brain in a healing environment, much like I talk about in Memory Rescue.

That's what I told the football player on the phone. It's like in our NFL study, we taught people to love their brains. What are the things to avoid, marijuana's not going green, alcohol's not a health food. Avoid other head injuries. Avoid a pro-inflammatory diet. Probably one of the most important things, get the Brain Warriors Way cookbook, because you can eat great, but the food will love you back, it's good for you, and it tastes great.

Love your brain. Avoid things that hurt it. Do things that help it. In our NFL study, high dose fish oil, great multiple vitamin, a brain boost that works in multiple mechanisms, so we're really nourishing, putting the brain in a healing environment, for some of our players, we'll put them in a hyperbaric chamber. Some had neuro-feedback, but 80% of our players showed improvement.

Tana Amen: Awesome.

Dr Daniel Amen: Traumatic brain injury, a major cause of dementia. Prevent it, but if you've had one, get really serious about rehabilitation. After we record our podcast today, I'm actually going to see somebody well-known who's in his 70's, with really bad traumatic brain injury, and you can so see it. But the exciting news, if I can get him to be super serious about his health, there are improvements to-

Tana Amen: Right, and we see it every day.

Dr Daniel Amen: Be made.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: So, we don't want you to ... If you've had a traumatic injury, we want you to be anxious about it, we want you to care about it, we want you to be serious about it, but we want you to have hope about it, that it can be better if you do the right things.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: If you have any questions about it-

Tana Amen: Well, apparently, I have one.

Dr Daniel Amen: Go to, call the clinics, we would love to help you, so when we first met, I'm like, "Have you ever had a brain injury?" Because I saw your scan, and I could actually see on the left side that it looked like you had.

Tana Amen: But I'm a neurosurgical ICU nurse-

Dr Daniel Amen: And you said "No."

Tana Amen: When you see brain injuries in the hospital, they're like serious brain injuries, we remove people's skull, part of their skull, we put drains in their brains-

Dr Daniel Amen: Right, so tell me about the little-

Tana Amen: They're in comas.

Dr Daniel Amen: Tiny brain injury you had after I asked you 10 times.

Tana Amen: The one that I didn't lose consciousness with?

Dr Daniel Amen: Right.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: What happened?

Tana Amen: I didn't lose consciousness, I walked away.

Dr Daniel Amen: What happened?

Tana Amen: I was in a car accident, my sister fell asleep-

Dr Daniel Amen: So, you remember, the brain is soft, skull is hard.

Tana Amen: Yes, I know, I know the anatomy.

Dr Daniel Amen: How old were you?

Tana Amen: 25.

Dr Daniel Amen: Okay. You're in a car, your sister's driving-

Tana Amen: 75 miles per hour.

Dr Daniel Amen: Your sister who had 19 accidents, because she has the Irlen syndrome. We should talk about the Irlen syndrome with you.

Tana Amen: She falls asleep, swerves, swerves, over corrects, flips the car two-and-a-half times, lands on it's hood, but I got out and walked away, by some miracle.

Dr Daniel Amen: Smashed the roof, and if you weren't laid back in your seat-

Tana Amen: Reclining, right.

Dr Daniel Amen: You would've been dead instantly, and then I wouldn't be tortured by you.

Tana Amen: I'm so sorry about that. Not.

Dr Daniel Amen: I would be very unhappy.

Tana Amen: Yes. But you asked me-

Dr Daniel Amen: Let's just get the physics down, of this. Your brain is going 70 miles an hour, right? Because as the car's going 70 miles, you're in it, your brain is going 70 miles an hour and then all a sudden it flips two-and-a-half times, and stops.

Tana Amen: Yeah.

Dr Daniel Amen: So, 70 miles an hour, your soft, jello, custard-like brain is going down the highway. All of a sudden it stops inside your skull, it is slamming up against the front, up against the back, up against the front, because it's in a closed space, so-

Tana Amen: Like shaken baby.

Dr Daniel Amen: It's shaken baby at 70 miles an hour, and because you don't lose consciousness, you think it's not a big deal.

Tana Amen: FYI, no one bothered checking for concussion because I walked away.

Dr Daniel Amen: And your depression, I know, with thyroid, was before that, or after that.

Tana Amen: It was before that.

Dr Daniel Amen: Well, that didn't help it.

Tana Amen: Didn't help it. For sure.

Dr Daniel Amen: But yet, you remained awesome.

Tana Amen: It's amazing how much you learn.

Dr Daniel Amen: It's amazing how much you learn, and now-

Tana Amen: But I learned, and here, I'm part of the medical community, head injuries are not necessarily something that happens when you have neurosurgery and part of your skull removed. You know? That's not necessarily how it goes. They can be much more ... Mild is not the word, but you know what I'm trying to say. They can happen without being so obvious.

Dr Daniel Amen: And you don't have to lose consciousness to have a bad brain injury. Consciousness is a brain stem phenomenon, the biggest case, the most famous case in neurosurgical literature is Finneas Gage, who got an iron rod stuck through his frontal lobes, blasted through his frontal lobes, and he didn't lose consciousness.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: But it changed the rest of his life.

Tana Amen: Yeah.

Dr Daniel Amen: Your brain can be better, even if you've been bad to it. Stay with us.