Change Your Brain, Change Your Life

Your brain is the hardware of your soul. You cannot be who you really want to be unless your brain is working right.

Dr. Daniel Amen, M.D., is a clinical neuroscientist, child and adolescent psychiatrist, and medical director of the Amen Clinic for Behavioral Medicine in Fairfield, California.

His book “Change Your Brain Change Your Life” provides evidence that many of the major psychological disorders are related to how specific structures operate in the brain.Dr. Amen’s research and therapy is backed up by state of the art brain scanning technology that he uses to assess the health of an individual’s brain. Throughout the book, Amen provides “prescriptions” to treat disorders that include psychological techniques and adjustments in life style and diet. The brain scans he performs are called SPECT scans, (Single photon mission computed tomography) that enables one to peer into the health of the brain. If specific areas are not functioning correctly, tailored treatments can be done to specifically correct only what needs to be corrected. Dr. Amen explains how you can “optimize” your brain to achieve your fullest potential. He explains which brain systems are associated with particular problems, gives detailed checklists to help pinpoint problems, and offers specific yet simple “brain prescriptions” (cognitive exercises, nutrition medication, and more) to enhance brain function and heal each problem. Dr. Amen focuses on five areas the brain that when are not working properly can cause many of the difficulties associated with anxiety, depression, excessive worrying, anger, and distraction.These five areas are the deep limbic system, the basal ganglia, the cingulated system, the temporal lobes, and the prefrontal cortex.The deep limbic system of the brain is involved in bonding and mood control. When this part of the brain isn’t working correctly people may struggle with moodiness and negativity. When this area is less active, people tend to be more positive and hopeful. When it is overactive, negativity can take over and lower motivation and drive, decrease self-esteem and increase feeling of guilt and helplessness. SPECT scans may show that person’s deep limbic system before EMDR session with over activity and after session EMDR helps to decrease the activities in this area. Amen explains simple steps to help deactivate this brain area includingthought exercises, physical exercise, and a diet high in omega3-fatty acids, low- saturated fat, and high carbohydrates.The basal ganglia are large structures in the brain involved with movement and emotions that when overactive can lead to anxiety, panic, fear, and conflict avoidance tendencies. When this area is overactive, disorders such as ADD, Parkinson’s disease, panic attacks, and anxiety can occur. Amen proposes mental exercises, meditation, imagery, and a diet without alcohol, lots of kava extract, valerian root, and B vitamins.
The prefrontal cortex -Think of the PFC as the CEO of your brain. It acts like a supervisor for the rest of your brain and body. It is responsible for keeping you focused, make planes, impulse control, and decision making. When this part of the brain is underactive people will have problems with attention, focus, and organization. Low activity in PFC is also linked to a short attention span, impulsivity, a lack of clear goals and procrastination. Such disorders that can occur are ADD, schizophrenia, and drug addictions. Ways to improve the prefrontal cortex’s function, is creating goals in one’s life, adding stimulating activates and excitement in your daily routine, having a high protein diet low carbohydrate low fat, as well as seeking profession help and prescription medication at the same time.The cingulated system is a part of the brain that Amen calls the “gear shifter”. It allows you to shift attention from one thought to another and between behaviors. When this part is overactive, people get stuck in thought loops or behaviors. Disorders in this area are addictions, obsessive compulsive disorders, eating disorders, rage, and chronic pain. Amen proposes a number of mental exercises to correct thoughts and behaviors, prescription medications, and exercise.  The temporal lobes are involved in memory, language, facial recognition, and temper control. When problems arise in these areas people are more prone to temper flare ups, rapid mood shifts, and learning problems. Disorders from this area can include memory problems (amnesia), emotional stability(fear and anxiety), and sensory processing (hallucinations). “Prescriptions” to help correct the temporal lopes include involving one’s self in music, prescription medication recommendations, adequate sleep, elimination of caffeine and nicotine, and a diet balanced in protein and carbohydrates.

  • Prefrontal Cortex – judgment, forethought, planning, and impulse control
  • Anterior Cingulate Gyrus – shifting attention
  • Deep Limbic System – sets emotional tone; involved with mood and bonding
  • Basal Ganglia – integrates thoughts, feelings and movements; involved with pleasure
  • Temporal Lobes – memory, mood stability, and temper issues ‘what pathway’
  • Parietal Lobes – sensory processing and direction sense ‘where pathway’
  • Occipital Lobes – vision and visual processing
  • Cerebellum – motor coordination, thought coordination, processing speed, and judgment