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Today, much psychiatry involves deciding which pill to prescribe. Patients with the same symptoms may respond quite differently to the same medications. Most psychiatrists will candidly tell you that prescribing is mostly a matter of trial and error, with the patient often suffering during the process.

Dr. Daniel G. Amen has a different idea. Conduct SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) scans to identify brain deficiencies in conjunction with standard psychiatric diagnostic tools. In this book, he shares examples of how various brain dysfunctions can be identified by such scans. After trying a treatment, he can then test the adequacy of the approach by asking the patient about his or her life and by looking at an updated scan. In these before and after images, the results are remarkably different.

As a substitute for such scans, Dr. Amen invites readers to respond to a series of questions that he often finds are indicative of brain dysfunctions. From there, he describes the various alternative (non-medicinal) treatments as well as the indicated meds. In many cases, patients will be helped by an improved diet, exercise, avoiding sources of brain trauma, improving hydration, reducing excess stress, learning how to stop focusing on negative thoughts, getting more sleep, reducing caffeine and alcohol consumption, avoiding aspartame and MSG, eliminating environmental toxins, and reducing television watching, video game playing, computer use, and cell phone calls and texting.

After you identify what you or a loved one might be suffering from, he also describes the treatments that usually help. In the course of this, he describes the latest research that describes why these treatments help.

As someone who isn't a physician, I was struck by the potential of imaging to improve diagnosis. I know what imaging has done for helping identify cancers, cardio-vascular diseases, and glandular dysfunctions. Obviously, I'm not in a position to judge the quality of Dr. Amen's work, but the theory makes sense to me as someone who often designs new measurements to diagnose the causes and sources of problems.

I found that the book's main weakness is that it wasn't always clear to me what Dr. Amen meant by his various screening questions. After I got into the sections that talked about the dysfunctions in more detail, I often found that I had misunderstood the purpose of his questions.

I liked the sections of the book that talk about how to improve your brain, even if you don't have a major dysfunction. I think that anyone will be intrigued by what Dr. Amen reports.
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