Shrinks: Picture This
California psychiatrist Daniel Amen uses SPECT – single-photon emission computed tomography – brain imaging to diagnose and treat attention deficit disorder and other behavioral problems. Many of his colleagues take a dim view.
What’s the problem?
Psychiatry is the only field of medicine where it’s considered normal practice to treat an organ – in this case, the brain – without looking at it.
The technology you’re using has been around for thirty years?
It’s used by neurologists for diagnosing dementia, seizures, strokes, and head injuries. But some of the researchers at NIH keep saying it’s not ready for psychiatric problems.
What does it let you see?
You look at blood flow. We rate 30 different areas of brain function.
Critics say you haven’t proved the approach is scientifically valid. Why don’t you publish more?
I’m a clinician. My job is to do the best I can for my patients. The technologies continue to improve. In seven to ten years, I’m very confident that all complicated psychiatric patients will be imaged.
You’re doing pretty well already – four busy clinics.
Our biggest referral source is our patients. As people see what we can do, they demand it.
Are your colleagues being fussy or just careful?
Psychiatrists are high touch, not high tech. It’s holding back the whole profession. Not to mention our patients.