Daniel Amen-Making a Good Brain Great

About a month ago, I bought a copy of Making a Good Brain Great and began reading about Daniel Amen’s research on brain imaging and how brain function affects thinking and behavior. His research is relatively new, starting in the 90s, and now spanning over 50,000 brains of average people and people with behavioral and mental problems.

His research looks at activity levels in six major areas of the brain:

  • the prefrontal cortex – planning, forethought, judgment, impulse control, expression
  • the temporal lobes – language, reading social cues, short term memory, music, recognition of objects, insight and spiritual experiences
  • the basal ganglia – integrates thought, feelings and movements, sets  body’s idle speed, anxiety and stress
  • the cerebellum – motor coordination, walking, posture, processing speed, thought coordination,  makign adjustments in thinking and emotional response
  • the anterior cingulate gyrus – cognitive flexibility, changing from one idea to another, goal setting, cooperation
  • the deep limbic system – mood, emotional memory and bonding

What is interesing about his work is that both overstimulation  and understimulation of one or more areas can cause problems.  He uses a questionnaire to help a discover what areas are out of balance, before recommending a brain activity scan.  He recommends foods for brain health, including wild caught fish and excluding caffeine, brain building exercises like learning to juggle, and various supplements that may stimulate or relax certain areas.

In my case, a number of areas tend to stay overstimulated. He calls that The Ring of Fire in another of his books, Magnificent Mind at Any Age.  That means that most of the areas are over-firing, over stimulated, and that it is hard for me to on the one hand to get focused on one thing, and once I do, it’s hard for me to change gears. It’s a recipe for being overwhelmed much of the time, having too many ideas and not staying focused long enough to follow through on any of them.

I am making changes in my diet to eliminate the sugars, gluten and dairy products that make me wired and tired, along with caffeine. And I have started a round of Dr. Amen’s Neuro-Link, a supplement of amino acids and vitamins that is supposed to help regulate brain function without side effects. It contains  B6, L-tyrosine, GABA, L-glutamine, inositol, taurine and 5-HTP.  Years back, I read a similar book that suggested these amino acids and vitamins as a cure for depression, a way to stop taking antidepressants. It seemed to work then, but the combination was hard to find and expensive, as I had to purchase each separately.

This combination seems to be working, not in a brilliant flash of light kind of way, but in allowing reduced resistance to making changes that help me manage my life.  It has been much easier for me to do some  meal planning and to be more satisfied with the foods that are healthy rather than the  cheese and bread comfort foods of my childhood. I am more willing to make healthy changes and to think ahead rather than just muddling though and letting the chips fall. Given my current state of health and obesity, muddling through isn’t working.

I am aware of the placebo effect of any new activity or supplement, so I will give this a few months and see how it goes. The real test will be if I can put into action all the information I’ve been learning in the last year that has been just too much to get done. Find out more with these books:

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