How do you know unless you look?

SPECT looks at blood flow and activity patterns. It looks at how your brain works. We typically obtain two scans on patients - one at rest and the other during concentration. The images below are examples of the various SPECT patterns associated with different disorders and brain types.

Obsessive Compulsive Spectrum Disorders

The anterior cingulate gyrus is a part of the brain involved with cognitive flexibility and shifting attention. Overactivity of this structure lends itself to abnormal behavior and thoughts.

In obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), numerous SPECT studies report increased activity in the anterior cingulate gyrus, the right and left anterior prefrontal cortex and the basal ganglia.

Increased anterior cingulate gyrus activity has also been observed in patients with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and violent behavior.

Case Study: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

On the outside, Gail seemed like a very normal person. She went to work every day, was married to her high school sweetheart and had two small children. On the inside, however, Gail felt like a mess; she was distant from her family and locked into the private hell of obsessive compulsive disorder. She cleaned her house for hours every night after work and screamed at her husband and children when anything was out of place. She would become especially hysterical if she saw a piece of hair on the floor. She was often at the sink washing her hands and made her husband and children wash their hands more than ten times a day. The children were often withdrawn and upset and her husband was ready to leave her.

On the verge of divorce, Gail and her husband came to the Amen Clinics. At first, her husband was very skeptical about the biological nature of her illness. Gail’s brain SPECT study showed marked increased activity in the anterior cingulate gyrus — a hallmark for the biological process underlying obsessive compulsive behavior and difficulty shifting attention. Within six weeks of treatment to calm this part of her brain, she became more relaxed, her ritualistic behavior diminished and her marriage got back on track.

Case Study: Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

13-year-old boy with severe oppositional defiant disorder.

Case Study: Road Rage

A 37-year-old male attorney chased other drivers who cut him off, and on two occasions, he got out of his car and bashed in their windows with the baseball bat he kept in his car. After the second incident, he came to see us. He said, “If I don’t get help for this I’m sure I’ll end up in jail.” His SPECT scan revealed two abnormal findings:

  • Marked increased activity in the anterior cingulate gyrus causing him to get locked into the negative thoughts
  • Left temporal lobe hyperactivity which correlated with his irritability and inability to control his frustration

Case Study: Pathological Gambling

Adam came to the Amen Clinics when his wife left him. His gambling had gotten out of control. During the past few years, he had been neglecting his business, spent more time at the racetrack, and was driving back and forth to the casinos in Reno and Lake Tahoe. “I feel compelled to gamble. I know it’s ruining my life, but it seems I have to place a bet or the tension just builds and builds.”

Adam’s SPECT study showed heavy anterior cingulate gyrus activity. Explaining the cingulate system to Adam was helpful. He could identify many people in his family who had problems with shifting attention. “You should see our family gatherings,” he said, “someone is always mad at someone else. People in my family can hold grudges for years and years.”

With a little medication, Gamblers Anonymous and some psychotherapy to help him, he was able to shift away from the obsessive thoughts about gambling. Eventually, Adam was able to reconnect with his wife and rebuild his business.

Case Study: Chronic Pain

Stewart, a 40-year-old roofer, hurt his back ten years ago when he fell off a roof. He underwent six back operations but remained in constant pain. He was essentially bedridden and all he could think about was his pain. He was about to lose his family, so he came in for an evaluation.

His SPECT studies revealed marked overactivity in the anterior cingulate gyrus — a finding reported in several cases of intractable pain. After 5 weeks on an anti-obsessive medication, he reported that although his back still hurt, but he was much less focused on the pain. He was able to get out of bed and go back to school.


If you want to speak to someone immediately, you can call a qualified Patient Care Coordinator with Amen Clinics. We can start to answer your questions and help you book a Full Evaluation with Amen Clinics. Call Today! 888-208-0037

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