For Daniel G. Amen -– psychiatrist, self-help advisor and medical director of the Amen Clinic –- the simple act of evaluating patients with the help of SPECT scanning (an imaging technique using gamma rays capable of providing 3D information) has brought criticism, praise and enough attention to certify him as one of the world’s foremost authorities on the brain. Through taking an image of the brain, Dr. Amen believes it is possible to notice which parts of the brain are out of balance and use that information to make a more accurate diagnosis of problems and prescriptions for correcting them. And though his findings have yet to be embraced by the collective medical community, years of cutting edge research and positive patient response has made this neuroscientist and his findings impossible to ignore.
For another installment in our 10 Big Questions series, Huff/Post50 caught up with the good doctor to hear his prescription for a life lived to the fullest.
What's the one thing you know now that you wish you knew when you were growing up?
That I definitely should have taken better care of my brain. Not played football, learned to dance and play a musical instrument, and spent more time learning about nutrition and correcting the ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) that kept crawling through my brain.
Now that you're over fifty, what's the one rule you feel you can break with impunity?
Going along with the crowd and doing what everyone else is doing. It is a total waste of my neurons.
What is the riskiest thing you've done in your life since you've turned fifty?
The riskiest thing was probably that I took on many of my psychiatric colleagues and basically said that it’s malpractice not to use brain-imaging tools in complex cases. It did not win any friends, but I believe it to be true.
What ignites your creativity?
My work, helping people have better brains and better lives. I just love doing what I do.
What social or political cause are you most passionate about?
Brain health and all that is involved with it.
What is the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Don’t want or expect others to approve of you. Make sure you gain your own self-respect and approval.
What is your biggest regret?
I wish I was smarter and found a way to convince my colleagues sooner about the value of the brain imaging work we do. I also wish earlier in my career I had a thicker skin.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
Building the world’s largest database of brain scans related to behavior (now more than 66,000), and all the people who were helped along the way.
If you could say one thing to the next generation, what would it be?
The brain starts to deteriorate decades before it has any problems. Learn about brain health early and always keep it top of mind.
If you could reincarnate as anyone or anything, what or who would it be?
I would come back as an eagle. I love to soar and see great scenery. The brain is 50 percent visual.