What Does An “Evil” Brain Pattern Look Like On A SPECT Scan?

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

After scanning the brains of criminals who have committed atrocious crimes, Dr. Daniel Amen has found that there are interesting patterns of brain activity among these disturbed individuals. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Amen and his wife Tana discuss what was found during these scans, and what that might mean for the mental health community.


Read Full Transcript

Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to The Brain Warrior's 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 Warrior's Way Podcast is brought you to by Amen Clinics, where we've transformed lives for three decades using brain SPECT imaging to better target treatment and natural ways to heal the brain. For more information, visit amenclinics.com.
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceutical products to support the health of your brain and body. For more information, visit brainmdhealth.com. Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome back. We're so happy you are with us. We're continuing to talk about the X factor. Before we get back to the lessons from imaging, this is from Food Equals Treatment from the United States.
Tana Amen: I like that.
Dr. Daniel Amen: "There seems to be a lot of confusion among experts on what you should eat. This podcast was really simple and easy to understand. I'm also reading Memory Rescue, which is a great book by Dr. Amen." Thank you so much for saying that. Bless you.
As we talk about our series on Feel Better Fast and Make it Last, the X of Brain [XL 00:01:37] is the X factor. If you're not feeling better fast by doing the simple things that we talk to you about, somebody should look at your brain. Lesson number four is, if what you're doing isn't working, you should look. I tell the story of a case of a guy that had panic disorder, all of a sudden came out of nowhere, and he tried Xanax, and it didn't work. He tried Prozac-
Tana Amen: I remember this.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... became suicidal and-
Tana Amen: This was a highly, highly successful person.
Dr. Daniel Amen: When we looked at his brain, it was very clear he had a brain injury.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It's like, "So when did you have a brain injury?" He said, "I never did." I'm like, "Well, are you sure? Have you ever?" We've talked about that on the podcast a lot. Two weeks before he had his panic attack, he had a mountain biking accident in the Santa Monica mountains and damaged the left front side of his brain. The idea was take him off the psych meds, put him on treatments to rehabilitate his brain, and he just did remarkably better. If you don't look, you don't know.
The next lesson was looking at the brain improves outcomes, and people get better faster. Looking at the brain, this is lesson number six, completely changes the discussion about good and evil.
Tana Amen: Oh, for sure.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Ah, sneaky.
Tana Amen: This just creates the discussion at our house. There's a lot of tension.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Good and evil.
Tana Amen: A lot of tension.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The redhead in my life loves to ... well, people are bad, and you should just-
Tana Amen: No, no, no. You don't get to ... No. It's not black and white, but I absolutely-
Dr. Daniel Amen: Ah, it's not black and white. Notice that she said, "It is not black and white."
Tana Amen: The discussion is not black and white, but there is definitely evil, and people still must pay for their actions. They must pay-
Dr. Daniel Amen: There's responsibility.
Tana Amen: Absolutely, there is responsibility, and the responsibility must match the crime. Sorry, so I said it.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I was in a death penalty case.
Tana Amen: That does not mean ... Where this work has changed, softened my heart, is that I do agree-
Dr. Daniel Amen: It's hard to soften steel.
Tana Amen: It is. It is, yes, because I have often said I was the judge, jury, and the executioner. Okay? I admit it. I said it. Not a nice thing to say, but it's the truth, especially where-
Dr. Daniel Amen: I just married a prettier version of my father.
Tana Amen: Especially where children are concerned. Any crimes against children, I just have zero, zero ... Yeah, there's no room, but where the discussion comes in is that, when you do know that someone has a really bad brain, they still have to pay for the crime. I'm sorry, but at the same time, when you see that they do have trouble, now, this is where the system is completely broken because we leave no ... there is no room for someone to be at all rehabilitated, not at all. Now, I don't think they should get out at all, never, never going to happen.
Dr. Daniel Amen: All right. We're not doing this in that straight line.
Tana Amen: Okay. I'm just saying.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I know. The idea in this part of the lesson with the lesson I learned, I had no opinion on the death penalty until 1991 when I started looking at people's brains. Growing up Catholic, the Catholic church was against it, but I really didn't think about it, but when we started looking at the brain, attorneys began to send people to us and go, "Why did this person do this awful thing?" Out of the hundred murderers I've scanned, about 95 of them have really terrible-looking brains, but that means five of them don't. There are a lot of people who have terrible-looking brains that never do anything bad, and so-
Tana Amen: Right. See, this is where it gets complicated.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Is it really the sign of an evolved society to kill sick people?
Tana Amen: Okay, but you have to let me respond.
Dr. Daniel Amen: [crosstalk 00:05:48]. Let me finish.
Tana Amen: If you're going to say that, you need to let me respond.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Let me finish.
Tana Amen: You don't get to make that comment without letting me respond.
Dr. Daniel Amen: This is not a debate. It's a podcast.
Tana Amen: It is. You don't get to comment and not let me respond. You married a redhead, in your words, so ...
Dr. Daniel Amen: I was-
Tana Amen: Still going to respond.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... in a death penalty case where I testified, and this guy was terrible. He killed four people in 11 days while he did a methamphetamine run. It was planned, it was purposeful, and his brain was devastated. When you understand the story of his life ... I'm on the witness stand, and George was the prosecutor, and he didn't like me because I'm giving the jury a reason to have mercy. Now, just because you have a bad brain doesn't mean you didn't do it, doesn't mean you didn't plan to do it, and doesn't mean you're not responsible for it.
I talked to the jury about his very damaged brain, and the prosecutor, sort of like you, was irritated with me, and he said, "Dr. Amen, I understand you grew up Catholic." I'm like, "Yes, sir." He said, "Well, as a Catholic, don't you believe in evil?" I stopped, and I thought about it, and then I looked at the jury, and I said, "Yes, sir. I do believe in evil, but I'd never call anybody evil unless I could scan them first." The jury laughed, and George turned red, and he was mad at me. Behavior is complicated. You're kicking me. Why are you kicking me?
Tana Amen: I'm still going to respond to the comment about it's not a sign of an evolved society, but we still need to protect the innocent. We need to protect them. The laws are there for a reason, and we can't-
Dr. Daniel Amen: It doesn't mean-
Tana Amen: Hold on.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... I would advocate for [Louis 00:08:00] to go home, absolutely not.
Tana Amen: Right, but hold on, but that sometimes ... This is where it gets murky. We have to be careful, okay, because what ends up happening is, the way the system is designed, oftentimes, an order for them to protect people who are ... If you try to start saying that they are sick and not hurt, they begin to point fingers at the victims or they make the victims feel like they are the criminals and the criminals like the victims.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The victims-
Tana Amen: We need to protect the victims.
Dr. Daniel Amen: We need to protect the victims, but the fact is most people who go to jail go home.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: We should also be rehabilitating them-
Tana Amen: But we're not.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... so that, when they go home, there's a better chance-
Tana Amen: No, you and I agree on that.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... that they can take care of their families, have jobs, pay taxes.
Tana Amen: We agree on that. That does happen, though. Doesn't happen yet.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I always think of this as a very conservative idea.
Tana Amen: If someone hurt my daughter and they got out, whether it was on this argument or not, I would be waiting for them when they got out. It's on film. Just saying.
Dr. Daniel Amen: You can read the book to learn more lessons from imaging, but what I did is we sent an email out to our patients, and we said, "What were the big lessons you learned from imaging?" I just want to read you a couple.
One, "Prior to having my scan, I was misdiagnosed and then mistreated. After having my scans, I have a new life."
Tana Amen: Yes.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I love that part.
"I learned, as an adult, that I still have lasting brain effects from heart surgery I had as an infant. It helped explain many of my struggles and gave me direction on how to get help. If I didn't see the damage to my brain, I wouldn't have taken actions needed to make it better. The first scan helped me realize I wasn't crazy. It made total sense. I had focus and anxiety issues, but I had never admitted them to myself. The second scan three months later verified that the supplements and dietary changes had calmed my brain dramatically, which is why I was feeling so much better."
Another one, "I had no idea how I was hurting my brain and my future with the alcohol and weed."
Tana Amen: That's a good one. I want to add one to that.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Last one, "Your brain wants to heal itself and, given the right conditions, it can."
Tana Amen: I want to add one to that. One way that it has changed the way I think what ... Where this discussion actually, I think, is most effective is I really ... I think that the big part of the mission, for me, is in prevention. This has the ability to help people get treatment before they do these really awful things. Once the awful things are done, you and I are always going to have this discussion. I'm sorry, but it has the ability-
Dr. Daniel Amen: I don't think anybody should go home.
Tana Amen: Hold on. It's not the point.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Right?
Tana Amen: The point is you and I are always going to have disagreements on that. Where we will never disagree is that it has the ability, it has the potential and the power to prevent some of these awful things. That is, for me, the huge ... that's where it's huge. That's where we need to be really pushing on getting people the proper treatment because there are signs. These horrible crimes that have been happening, right, with these shootings, in almost every single one of them, there were signs. People knew. They were getting treatment, but they were getting the wrong treatment. The one in Aurora, Colorado, his psychiatrist fired him. It's not like he wasn't trying to get help, and that's what's not fair.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It because we are working on the wrong paradigm.
Tana Amen: Right, and that is what is not fair.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The paradigm is this is mental health, which implies snap out of it.
Tana Amen: That's what's not fair.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It's brain health.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Stay with us.
Thank you for listening to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. Go to iTunes and leave a review, and you'll automatically be entered into a drawing to get a free signed copy of The Brain Warrior's Way and The Brain Warrior's Way Cookbook we give away every month.