SPECT Scans – A New Phrenology? The Pro's and Con's of the Amen Clinic

OMG! Another report came in today from The Amen Clinic. The parent shared it with me, and then told me how neuro-therapy and cranial something or other were suggested, along with a long list of suppliments, oils, and other "natural" medications (whatever that meant). I have learned from experience that this is a topic that is difficult to explain, and that there is really little hope of getting a parent to look at the assumptions they are making and give modern, scientific based interventions and mainstream medication another chance. But I'm going to at least give it one more try. First: READ THIS ARTICLE! Read it with a pen, marker, underliner...whatever you need to really understand it!

SPECT Scans at the Amen Clinic – A New Phrenology?

And then this:


This article points out, "Phrenology was a 19th century pseudoscience that claimed to associate brain areas with specific personality traits. It was based on palpating bumps on the skull and was totally bogus. New brain imaging procedures are giving us real insights into brain function in health and disease. They are still blunt instruments, and it is easy and tempting to over-interpret what we are seeing. In his book The New Phrenology William Uttal warns that “the excitement of these new research tools can lead to a neuroreductionist wild goose chase” and that we must be careful not to succumb to new versions of the old phrenology."

The Amen Clinics offer SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) scans to help diagnose and manage conditions such as attention deficit disorders (ADD), mood disorders, anxiety and panic disorders, autistic spectrum disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), substance abuse, toxic exposure, brain trauma, memory problems, temper problems, and relationship and marital struggles. The scans generate colored pictures of the brain that show “areas of your brain that work well, areas that work too hard (not sure how that is determined, I don't even know what it means!) and areas that do not work enough.” And then the goal of this treatment he proposes, often involving medications, suppliments, diet and so on, is to balance the brain..or balance the brain's function. Again, no real research to tell you exactly what that means.

The charge is $3250 up front, and most insurance companies will not provide reimbursement because they consider it experimental. There is a 10% discount for testing additional family members...yes there is a family plan for PET Scans at the clinic! And as the writer of the article points out: "The Amen Clinic’s informed consent form is misleading: it does not divulge that the American Psychiatric Association has spoken out against SPECT scanning for these purposes and has warned of potential harm – especially to children, who are more susceptible to the effects of radiation." Yep, the APA says they don't work for the purposes they are being used, AND that they are dangerous, especially for children. You'd think that would be in the informed consent, wouldn't you? But desperate parents and individuals will try anything.
As the writers tell us, "There is no excuse for misrepresenting an unproven treatment as a treatment that has been proven effective. And there is no excuse for concealing essential information from patients, or for creating false hopes by implying a promise of more than they can really deliver."

Testimonials. The Amen Clinic site is full of them, and as you know I feel they are the worse information you can provide, the are misleading, misleading and very misleading. The article also talks a great deal about the treatment provided. I urge you to read it, take it to your medical doctor and get some professional advice before making any investment of this kind of money. See your doctor, and make an informed choice....informed by a professional who understands the complexity of these issues.

Here is my suggestion. Go ahead, read the Amen Clinic brochure. Then read this article (the link is found above), and if you want, go to the Quackwatch website and read BOTH the articles that support the procedure and clinic and those that don't, then take a few more minutes to read this article about ADHD diagnosis in the New York Times. It's an interesting controversy I've recently written about. Here the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/14/health/14consumer.html

When you are done, and it should take you less than 30 minutes total, you will know more about ADHD than most of your friends, relatives and maybe even some of the professionals you've seen. Take these articles to your medical doctor or psychologist and have a frank, informed and complete discussion about ADHD and how you should approach it. Know is good, science is great ....but NEVER rely on testimonials. My final word. Good luck! Like Dr. Amen says, there are ways to make your brain better functioning ....give it better information!

As always, I remind you that this blog is not meant to be a diagnostic tool, these disorders are complex. Don't take on line tests and diagnose yourself. Contact your medical doctor, see what he or she can do for you. If need be, contact a Registered Psychologist, one with experience with ADHD, and get a real diagnosis and help in making treatment choices.

For information on treatment services I provide for children, click here: http://web.me.com/jimroche/relatedminds/child_therapy.html

For information on diagnostic and treatment services for children with ADHD, click here:http://web.me.com/jimroche/relatedminds/adhd.html

For information on diagnostic and treatment services for adults, click here: http://web.me.com/jimroche/relatedminds/adult_adhd.html

You can also just check out my regular web page at www.adhdhelp.ca or www.relatedminds.com

Self-help readings on ADHD, Try these:
Dr. Barkley's "Taking Charge of your ADHD"
Kathleen Nadeau's Understanding Girls with AD/HD
Mary Solantos' Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Adult ADHD

These are a great place to start!