Dr. Amen and ADHD
The brain imaging that he works with is referred to as SPECT imaging (single photon emission computerized tomography). SPECT is a sophisticated nuclear medicine study that looks directly at cerebral blood flow and indirectly at brain activity (or metabolism). In this study, a radioactive isotope (which, as we will see, is akin to a myriad of beacons of energy or light) is bound to a substance that is readily taken up by the cells in the brain.
One kind is a 3D surface brain image, looking at the blood flow of the brain’s cortical surface. These images are helpful for picking up cortical surface areas of good activity as well as underactive areas. They are helpful to look at strokes, brain trauma, the effects from drug abuse, etc. A normal 3D surface scan shows good, full, symmetrical activity across the brain’s cortical surface.
The other kind is a 3D active brain image comparing average brain activity to the hottest 15% of activity. These images are helpful for picking up areas of overactivity, as seen in active seizures, obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety problems, certain forms of depression, etc. A normal 3D active scan shows increased activity (seen by the light color) in the back of the brain (the cerebellum and visual or occipital cortex) and average activity everywhere else (shown by the background grid).
Physicians are usually alerted that something is wrong in one of three ways: (a) they see too much activity in a certain area; (b) they see too little activity in a certain area; or (c) they see asymmetrical areas of activity, which ought to be symmetrical.
These are "neurotypical" images of the brain.
5. Limbic ADD, with symptoms of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity and negativity, depression, sleep problems, low energy, low self-esteem, social isolation, decreased motivation and irritability. Brain SPECT imaging typically shows increased central limbic system activity and decreased prefrontal cortex activity. This Limbic ADD subtype typically responds best to stimulating antidepressants such as buprion or imipramine, or venlafaxine if obsessive symptoms are present.