World's Largest Database of Functional Brain Scans Produces New Insights to Help Better Diagnose and Treat Mental Health Issues

SPECT Imaging poised to change the way psychiatry is practiced.

Oct 13, 2014, 14:15 ET from Amen Clinics, Inc.

COSTA MESA, Calif., Oct. 13, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A one-of-a-kind searchable database of almost 100,000 functional brain scans related to behavior on patients from 111 countries is now poised to change the way psychiatry has been practiced for the last 170 years.

Amen Clinics – a group of 6 nationwide psychiatric clinics founded in 1989 by psychiatrist Daniel G. Amen, M.D. – amassed the database of brain SPECT scans (single photon emission computed tomography), a nuclear medicine study that evaluates blood flow and activity levels.  With a generous grant from the Seeds Foundation in Hong Kong, Dr. Amen and his research team led by neuroscientist Kristen Willeumier, PhD, have turned the de-identified scans and clinical information into a searchable database that is shared with other researchers around the world.

In 2014 alone, the database has yielded 16 new [i]studies, including collaboration with researchers at UCLA, Thomas Jefferson University, the University of British Columbia and Nova Southeastern University, demonstrating how functional neuroimaging can add valuable information to better guide patient care and treatments for increased positive outcomes.

Two of the studies were presented at the most recent Society of Nuclear Medicine Meeting in St. Louis. 

One showed how the significant brain damage suffered by NFL players differed by position.  Lineman had more frontal lobe problems, often associated with judgment and impulse control issues, while defensive backs had more evidence of temporal lobe dysfunction, often associated with memory and temper issues. 

The second study showed differences in depressed patients of those who responded to treatment versus those who didn't, potentially helping psychiatrists make better decisions for their patients.     

In addition, the prestigious Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology recently published 10 studies with findings from the Amen Clinics SPECT imaging database. A few of the highlights of those studies include:

  • Patients with eating disorders had more activity in an area of the right frontal lobe during a concentration task, showing they may have a tendency to focus too much on things that are wrong or upset them and giving clinicians potential guidance on an area to target for treatment.
  • Patients with aggression showed lower blood flow in multiple areas of the brain, especially in the amygdala – which performs a primary role in the processing of decision-making, memory and emotional reactions – further supporting previously published studies and potentially guiding treatment interventions targeted to those areas.
  • Patients with ADD/ADHD have blood flow issues in several areas of the brain, especially the prefrontal cortex (judgment, focus and forethought) and cerebellum (coordination).  The study helps understand why strategies to stimulate the brain are often helpful.  

The magnitude and clinical significance of the Amen Clinics database – being the world's largest SPECT imaging database having such volume and breadth of data from patients 9 months old to 101 years of age – makes it a treasure trove for researchers to help advance and revolutionize the practice of psychiatry.

"It is my hope," said Dr. Amen, "that our database will begin to change psychiatric practice from the current approach of just making diagnoses based on symptom clusters – which is the same today as in Abe Lincoln's time – to using neuroimaging tools such as SPECT on a day-to-day basis to better target treatment and improve outcomes for people who suffer."   


[i] Jada J. Stewart, M.S., Daniel G. Amen, M.D., Kristen Willeumier, M.D., & Charles J. Golden, Ph.D. Diagnostic Accuracy of SPECT Scans:  Examining Specific Brain Areas of Regional Hypoperfusion at Baseline in Alzheimer's Disease.

Messerly J, Link J, Hayhurst H, Roberts C, Amen D, Willeumier K, Taylor D, Golden C.  Preliminary Investigation of SPECT Differences between Individuals with Varying Levels of Anxiety. C-19A  Arch Clin Neuropsychol. 2014 Sep;29(6):579.

Driskell L, Link J, Amen D, Willeumier K, Taylor D, Golden C.  SPECT Exploratory Analysis of Differentiating Mania Symptomology Severity. C-16A  Arch Clin Neuropsychol. 2014 Sep;29(6):578. doi: 10.1093/arclin/acu038.197.

Lenox S, Marsh J, Amen D, Willeumier K, Taylor D, Golden C. The Activation of the Right Inferior Orbitofrontal Cortex in Individuals with Eating Disorders during Administration of Conners' Continuous Performance Task. C-10. Arch Clin Neuropsychol. 2014 Sep;29(6):576.

Link J, Messerly J, Spearman C, Driskell L, Coad S, Amen D, Willeumier K, Taylor D, Golden C.  SPECT Differences between Those with Higher and Lower Levels of Aggression: An Exploratory Analysis. C-09  Arch Clin Neuropsychol. 2014 Sep;29(6):576.

Blose M, Coad S, Amen D, Willeumier K, Taylor D, Golden C.  SPECT Imaging in Adults with Nicotine-Related Disorders.  C-07 Arch Clin Neuropsychol. 2014 Sep;29(6):575.

Zusman M, Amen D, Willeumier K, Taylor D, Golden C. The Effect of Inattention on Cerebral Blood Flow Perfusion. B-16 Arch Clin Neuropsychol. 2014 Sep;29(6):542.

Yassin S, Spengler K, Amen D, Willeumier K, Taylor D, Golden C.  Differences in SPECT Perfusion in Children and Adolescents with ADHD. B-15  Arch Clin Neuropsychol. 2014 Sep;29(6):541-2.

Hubbard L, Amen D, Willeumier K, Taylor D, Golden C.  SPECT Imaging Differences in Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder versus Children with Anxiety. B-13 Arch Clin Neuropsychol. 2014 Sep;29(6):541.

Roberts C, Blose M, Amen D, Willeumier K, Taylor D, Golden C.  SPECT Imaging Differences in Adult Males versus Adult Females with Dementia. A-77 Arch Clin Neuropsychol. 2014 Sep;29(6):531.

Blose M, Roberts C, Amen D, Willeumier K, Taylor D, Golden C. SPECT Imaging Differences in Adults versus Older Adults with Dementia. A-18 Arch Clin Neuropsychol. 2014 Sep;29(6):510.

Harcourt S, Amen DG, Willeumier, K, Golden, C. Regional Cerebral Blood Flow in Schizophrenia While in Attention Task.  Presented at the American Psychological Association 2014

Silverman, Daniel H., Willeumier, Kristen, Torosyan, Nare, Mallam, Sravya, Raji, Cyrus, Dahlbom, Magnus, Amen, Daniel G.  Regional cerebral blood flow patterns during performance of an attention-focused cognitive task in patients resistant and responsive to antidepressant therapy ((accepted by the SNM Annual Meeting 2014)

Raji, Cyrus; Amen, Daniel G.; Torosyan, Nare; Willeumier, Kristen; Mallam, Sravya; Dahlbom, Magnus; Silverman, Daniel H.  Altered regional cerebral blood flow patterns in NFL offensive linemen and defensive backs (accepted by the SNM Annual Meeting 2014)

Dr. Amen is a double-board certified psychiatrist, brain-imaging expert, teacher, and nine-time New York Times bestselling author.  He is the founder of Amen Clinics, Inc. Amen Clinics have the world's largest database of functional brain scans relating to the brain and behavior, totaling nearly 90,000 scans on patients from over 111 countries. Dr. Amen is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.

Kaitlyn Brumleu
Amen Clinics

SOURCE Amen Clinics, Inc.