Many times people know there is something going on in their brain, whether they have lingering symptoms from a concussion, or are dealing with a chronic neurological illness, and so a doctor orderes an MRI or a CT scan, but the scans don’t show any remarkable findings. This often leads the doctors to believe that the patient’s symptoms are psychosomatic or just results of an anxiety disorder. This can be devastating to a person because they know they are sick, and that they are not making it up in their mind but there doesn’t seem to be any evidence to back up how they feel, and the condescending looks from a doctor reading a “clear” scan does not help one bit.
The fact is, MRI and CT scans themselves are very limited to looking at the structural make up of the brain and the interpretations are also very limited to only what the radiologist is trained to look for. These scans can be great for showing abnormal growths or lesions, but in most cases they do not show the effects of a diffuse brain injury, toxicity, degenerative disease or the actual functioning ability of the brain.
If you know there is something not right but you’ve been overlooked because a simple scan was clear, you may want to try more advanced imaging like SPECT or functional MRI. They are better at showing the effects from things like brain injuries/concussions, PTSD, Lyme, Autism, PDD, SPD, etc and even show the effects of toxicity from things like drug abuse, mold, or chemical exposure.
The following is from the Amen Clinics website:
SPECT stands for Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography. It is a nuclear medicine study that evaluates blood flow and activity in the brain. Basically, brain scans show three things:
Areas of the brain that have healthy activity
Areas of the brain that have too little activity
Areas of the brain that have too much activity
Then based on what we see, our job is to balance your brain—to calm it down if it is working too hard or stimulate it if it is underactive.More info can be found here on the Amen Clinics Website
I would recommend anyone with any long term chronic illness to get a SPECT scan done. The brain is the control center for your entire body, so chances are if you have symptoms in other systems of your body but the organs themselves look fine, the underlying issue might be in your brain.
An example of this was after I was in a car accident in 2006, I started to have severe digestive problems. I would be keeled over in pain for hours or even days at a time. I would vomit up things that I know I didn’t eat that day, but the day prior. When I went to a Gastroenterologist to try to figure out what was happening to me, he did what is called an endoscopy procedure to look at my upper digestive tract. The endoscopy was normal except for the fact that there was still undigested food left in it from the day before. No ulcers or other structural problems were detected with my stomach though, so he didn’t know how to help me. He put me on a drug that was supposed to help my digestion to “speed things along.” When that caused more pain, he changed it to another drug meant to “slow my system down.” After 3 days of not sleeping because the pain was so bad, I called him crying in frustration. So guess what he prescribed then? … an anti-depressant. I took it at first because back then I didn’t know better and I just blindly trusted Doctors and took whatever they prescribed. It wasn’t until I took it and literally felt like I was going to lose my mind, that I looked up what that drug was and stopped taking it, and I never went back to that doctor again.
It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with a brain injury years later that I looked at my past medical records and realized that this whole episode happened in the months directly following that car accident. My digestive system was structurally fine but the organ controlling it, my brain, needed to be healed. He never thought to ask me if I had just had a possible brain trauma. Now, this is the first question I ask someone when they express a sudden onset of digestive problems. The brain and the gut are so directly connected that no doctor should ever treat one while neglecting the other.
Many of my brain injury symptoms masked as other disorders and diseases, but now I know that it’s because my brain had lost the ability to control my body properly and now, I am so thankful to be getting that control back.
I am a firm believer that if you can fix what is going on in your brain and gut. The rest of your body will follow suit, and SPECT Imaging and fMRI can be very helpful in pinpointing the root issue.
Dr. Daniel Amen is a Neuro-Psychiatrist who realized that he was not able to help patients effectively because he too was just prescribing drug after drug based on a cluster of symtoms presented by the patient. He realized one day that a Psychatrist is the only type of doctor that tries to treat an organ without actually looking at it properly. He started to use SPECT imaging and saw many patterns in the scans that matched the complaints of his patients. He learned about what SPECT can show us about the actual blood flow and function in certain areas of the brain and how to help fix the issues, rather than just throw drugs at them and hope for the best.
You can learn a little bit more about Dr. Amen and his clinics in this post.
Read more about my personal experience with SPECT Scans at the Amen Clinic’s in this post.