Daniel Amen

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Daniel Amen
BornDaniel Gregory Amen
1954 (age 59–60)
Encino, Los Angeles
Alma materSouthern California College
Oral Roberts University School of Medicine (M.D., 1982), Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Tripler Army Medical Center.
Occupationpsychiatrist, psychiatric researcher, medical researcher, author, lecturer, professor
Known forAmen's Classification
  (Redirected from Daniel G. Amen)
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Daniel Amen
BornDaniel Gregory Amen
1954 (age 59–60)
Encino, Los Angeles
Alma materSouthern California College
Oral Roberts University School of Medicine (M.D., 1982), Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Tripler Army Medical Center.
Occupationpsychiatrist, psychiatric researcher, medical researcher, author, lecturer, professor
Known forAmen's Classification

Daniel Gregory Amen (born 1954[1]) is an American psychiatrist,[2] a brain disorder specialist,[3] director of the Amen Clinics,[4] and a New York Times bestselling author.[5] He was born in Encino, California.[1] He received his undergraduate degree from Southern California College in 1978 and his doctorate from Oral Roberts University School of Medicine in 1982.[6][7] While Amen is highly successful commercially, some of his methods are controversial.[8]

Amen's clinics sell medical services to people who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other disorders: He uses single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) as a purported diagnostic tool to identify what he says are sub-categories of these disorders, as devised by Amen himself.[9] Although highly profitable, Amen's use of SPECT scans to aid in psychiatric and neurological clinical diagnosis is based on unproven claims,[10] and has been widely criticized.[1][8][11][12]

He has done studies on brain injuries affecting professional athletes,[3] and he is one of the National Football Leagues post-concussion experts.[13]

Early life and education[edit]

Amen was born in Encino, California in 1954 to Lebanese immigrant parents.[1]

He received his undergraduate degree from Southern California College in 1978 and his doctorate from Oral Roberts University School of Medicine in 1982.[6][7] Amen did his general psychiatric training at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.,[7] and his child and adolescent psychiatry training at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu.[7]

Business activities[edit]

Amen is the CEO and medical director of the six Amen Clinics.[1][7] He is a prolific writer and popular speaker. He also operates websites which market dietary supplements.

SPECT scanning[edit]

Amen's practices use SPECT scans of brain activity in an attempt to compare the activity of a person's brain to a known healthy model. The validity of SPECT comparisons for aiding diagnosis, or to guide treatment, is not supported by research and is widely criticized by mental health and medical imaging experts.[11][14] A 2012 review by the American Psychiatric Association found that neuroimaging studies "have yet to impact significantly the diagnosis or treatment of individual patients."[15] In 2005, Quackwatch released a paper written by physician Harriet Hall which questioned the effectiveness of the SPECT scans and criticized Amen for not declaring them as experimental.[12] His techniques have been compared to the 19th century pseudoscience of phrenology, which associated the shape of the skull with personality traits.[1][16] His clinics claim to have the world's largest database of functional brain scans for neuropsychiatry.[7] Amen claims to have scanned 50,000 people at an estimated cost of $170 million.[17]

Amen purports to use before and after SPECT scans to see how well treatment is working, and prescribes both medication and non-medicative courses of treatment depending on the case.[18] He has also used brain scans to attempt to provide an explanation for other phenomena of the mind, such as relationships and love.[19][not in citation given] He has said, "I learned that when the brain works right, you work right, and that when the brain is troubled, you have trouble in life. Brain health is essential to all aspects of the quality of life."[20]


Questions have been raised about the ethics of selling SPECT scans on the basis of unproven claims: neuroscience professor Martha Farah calls such use "profitable but unproven" and says "Tens of thousands of individuals, many of them children, have been exposed to the radiation of two SPECT scans and paid thousands of dollars out of pocket (because insurers will not pay) against the advice of many experts".[10] Professor of psychology Irving Kirsch has said of Amen's theory: "Before you start promulgating this and marketing it and profiting from it, you should ethically be bound to demonstrate it scientifically in a peer-reviewed, respected journal" as otherwise "you're just going down the path of being a snake oil salesman".[1] In a 2011 paper the neuroscientist Anjan Chatterjee discussed example cases that were found on the Amen Clinic's website including a couple with marital difficulties and a child with impulsive aggression. The paper noted that the examples "violate the standard of care" because a normal clinical diagnosis would have been sufficient and that there "was no reason to obtain functional neuroimaging for diagnostic purposes in these cases."[17] Most patients do not realise that the SPECT scans rely on unproven claims.[9]

Work for athletes[edit]

Amen provides medical services to some NFL players.[13] He has also provided diagnosis and therapy for seven-time All-Star wing hockey player Paul Kariya, related to his concussion issues, advising him to retire, Kariya did retire from professional hockey.[3][13] Amen also made the initial diagnosis of brain damage in former NFL kicker Tom Dempsey who played for the New Orleans Saints.[3] Dempsey played football in an era when kickers also played other high-contact roles in the game.[3] During medical examinations and scans, Amen found, along with other damage, three holes in Dempsey's brain.[3] One of Amens clinics provides brain scans for current and former NFL players.[21]

Writing and ideas[edit]

Amen's first book Change Your Brain, Change Your Life was published in 1999 and unexpectedly reached the New York Times best seller list after selling tens of thousands of copies in the first year. Publishers Weekly noted that the book "apparently struck a nerve with readers who love a 'scientific' hook".[22][23]

In his book Making a Good Brain Great, he provides his analysis and recommendations for brain improvement purported to enhance a person's overall happiness and ability. For example, he suggests that hobbies that challenge the brain are important to ensuring a happy life, as he believes they force the brain to learn and evolve over time.[24] Davi Thornton characterized the book as consisting of "commonplace recommendations for self-improvement".[22]

Healing the Hardware of the Soul a book written by Amen in 2008 was reviewed in the American Journal of Psychiatry by Andrew Leuchter. While saying, "Dr. Amen makes a good case for the use of brain imaging to explain and medicalize mental disorders." Leuchter went on to say, "However, the reader who has any degree of familiarity with mental illness and brain science is left unconvinced that his [Amen's] highly commercialized use of scanning is justified" concluding that Amen, "...has not subjected his treatment approaches to the level of systematic scientific scrutiny expected for scientifically based medical practice."[25]

In his book The Brain in Love, he describes the brain activity that occurs during chanting meditation as similar to those that occur during the feeling of love and sexual activity, according to his interpretation.[26]

In 2013 Amen co-authored a book, The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life, with pastor Rick Warren on "how to lead a healthy life".[27] Amen was one of the people—the others included Mark Hyman and Mehmet Oz—that Warren recruited to help devise the program outlined in the book, called "The Daniel Plan".[28] Warren encouraged adoption of the plan by all member churches in his network of Saddleback churches.[29] According to Janice Norris, "The Daniel Plan is ... more than a diet. It is a lifestyle program based on Biblical principles and five essential components: food, fitness, focus, faith, and friends."[30] Amen, Warren, and Hyman appeared on the television show The View to discuss the Daniel Plan.[31]

In 2013 he also released on updated and modernized version of his book Healing ADD from the Inside Out: The Breakthrough Program That Allows You to See and Heal the Seven Types of Attention Deficit Disorder.[32]

Amen has authored several articles in journals.

Media and public appearances[edit]

Amen has self-produced six programs for the PBS network on his work used by PBS stations to raise funds.[33][34] These programs have been described as infomercials for his clinics and the products he sells.[33][35][36] PBS has been criticized for airing these programs.[33][34] The PBS ombudsman replied that PBS did not officially endorse the programs and programing decisions are made by local stations.[34][37]

Dietary supplements[edit]

Amen's websites market vitamin supplements and a branded range of other dietary supplements.[33] These supplements have been promoted for a number of health benefits, including a claimed ability to prevent or stop Alzheimer's disease—there is however no known benefit from taking such supplements except for specific substance deficiencies.[35][38] Neurologist Robert Burton has written that he was "just appalled" by the things offered for sale on Amen's "big business" web sites,[33] and Harriet Hall has said that Amen prescribes "inadequately tested natural remedies" and "irrational mixtures of nutritional diet supplements" as part of his treatment.[34]


Amen's popularity and financial success have been discussed in the media.[5][8] In 2012, The Washington Post Magazine ran a cover story entitled "Daniel Amen is the most popular psychiatrist in America. To most researchers and scientists, that's a very bad thing." The Washington Post detailed Amen's lack of acceptance among the scientific community and his monetary conflict of interest.[1] Amen has been characterized in the popular press as, "the most controversial psychiatrist in America [who] may also be the most commercially successful," (Daily Telegraph)[8] as well as the "most popular" (The Washington Post).[1] Amen stated he felt the accolades went hand-in-hand, saying "One reason why they hate me is because I make money, [ ... ] our biggest referral sources are our patients. If I'm defrauding them how would I stay in business for decades...?"[8]

Selected bibliography[edit]

Amen is the author of over 30 books with combined sales of over one million copies.[1][8] Five of his books have been New York Times bestsellers.[5] His books include:

Award, memberships and positions held[edit]

Amen is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.[1][39] Amen has also been an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry and human behavior in the University of California, Irvine, College of Medicine.[7] This was an untenured volunteer position, of which the College had more than 1000 in 2008. He was not affiliated with the university's Brain Imaging Center.[33]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Tucker, Neely (August 9, 2012). "Daniel Amen is the most popular psychiatrist in America. To most researchers and scientists, that’s a very bad thing.". Washington Post Magazine. Retrieved 2012-10-20. 
  2. ^ "Amen, Daniel Gregory, MD", ABPNverifyCERT (American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN)). 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Dykes, Brett Michael (January 27, 2013). "For former kicker, the price of fearlessness". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ Butcher, James (2008). "Neuropolitics gone mad". The Lancet Neurology 7 (4): 295. doi:10.1016/S1474-4422(08)70056-5. 
  5. ^ a b c Shapiro, Eliza (December 14, 2012). "Can Daniel Amen read your mind?". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2013-10-09. 
  6. ^ a b "Daniel Amen, MD". Doctor Finder. U.S. News & World Report. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g "Biography: Daniel G. Amen, MD". WebMD. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f Bhattacharya, Sanjiv (February 6, 2013). "Dr Daniel Amen interview: The shrink who believes technology will replace the couch". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  9. ^ a b Farah, Martha J.; Gillihan, Seth J. (2013). "Ch. 11 Neuroimaging in Clinical Psychiatry". In Chatterjee, Anjan; Farah, Martha J.. Neuroethics in Practice. Oxford University Press. pp. 131–143. ISBN 9780195389784. 
  10. ^ a b Farah, M.J. (2009). "A picture is worth a thousand dollars". Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (Editorial) 21 (4): 623–4. doi:10.1162/jocn.2009.21133. PMID 19296729. 
  11. ^ a b Farah, M.J.; Gillihan, S.J. (2012). "The puzzle of neuroimaging and psychiatric diagnosis: Technology and nosology in an evolving discipline". AJOB Neuroscience 3 (4): 31–41. doi:10.1080/21507740.2012.713072. PMC 3597411. PMID 23505613. 
  12. ^ a b Hall, Harriet (2007) [2005]. "A Skeptical View of SPECT Scans and Dr. Daniel Amen". Quackwatch. Retrieved 2014-03-11. 
  13. ^ a b c "All-Star Kariya ends career". Tampa Bay Times. June 29, 2011. 
  14. ^ Council on Children, Adolescents and Their Families (January 2005). "Resource Document on Brain Imaging and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry With Special Emphasis on Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT)". APA Official Actions. Joint Reference Committee; American Psychiatric Association (APA). Retrieved 2014-03-14. 
  15. ^ First, M.; Botterton, K.; Carter, C.; Castellano, F.X. et al. (July 2012). "Consensus Report of the APA Work Group on Neuroimaging Markers of Psychiatric Disorders". APA Official Actions (Resource Document). Board of Trustees; American Psychiatric Association (APA). 
  16. ^ Hall, Harriet (April 8, 2008). "SPECT Scans at the Amen Clinic – A New Phrenology?". Science-Based Medicine. Retrieved 2014-03-12. 
  17. ^ a b Chancellor, B.; Chatterjee, A. (2011). "Brain branding: When neuroscience and commerce collide". AJOB Neuroscience 2 (4): 18. doi:10.1080/21507740.2011.611123. 
  18. ^ Demos, John N. (2005). "Ch. 6 Brain Maps, Quantitative Electroencephalograph, and Normative Databases". Getting Started with Neurofeedback. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 98. ISBN 9780393075533. 
  19. ^ Schaeffer, Brenda (2013). "Ch. 2 The Roots of Addicted Love". Is It Love or Is It Addiction: The Book That Changed the Way We Think About Romance and Intimacy. Hazelden Publishing. p. 25. ISBN 9781592858361. 
  20. ^ Schwed, Amy; Melichar-Utter, Janice (2007). "Ch. 4 This Way to a Health Brain: The All Important 'tions'". Brain-Friendly Study Strategies, Grades 2-8: How Teachers Can Help Students Learn. Corwin Press. p. 35. ISBN 9781412942515. 
  21. ^ Williams, Joseph (February 19, 2007). "Give your head a rest: When it hurts, don't try to play through the pain. You could have a concussion. Tips for avoiding and recovering from a concussion". The Boston Globe. 
  22. ^ a b Thornton, Davi Johnson (2011). "Practical Neuoscience and Brain-Based Self-Help". Brain Culture: Neuroscience and Popular Media. Rutgers University Press. pp. 64 et seq. ISBN 9780813550121. 
  23. ^ Quinn, Judy (March 1, 1999). "Get a 'Life'". Publishers Weekly 245 (9). 
  24. ^ Swanner, Rebecca (2010). Best You Ever: 365 Ways to be Richer, Happier, Thinner, Smarter, Younger, Sexier, and More Relaxed - Each and Every Day. Adams Media. p. 340. ISBN 9781440510717. 
  25. ^ Leuchter, A.F. (2009). "Healing the Hardware of the Soul: Enhance Your Brain to Improve Your Work, Love, and Spiritual Life". American Journal of Psychiatry (book review) 166 (5): 625. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2009.08121843. 
  26. ^ Fisher, Maryanne; Bradford, Andrea (2010). "Ch. 14 Sex Inhibitors". The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Chemistry of Love. Penguin. Meditate for Better Sex. ISBN 9781101478035. 
  27. ^ Martin, Rachel (December 8, 2013). "Rick Warren writes a faith-based diet book". Weekend Edition (NPR News). 
  28. ^ Park, Madison (January 24, 2012). "Rick Warren and church tackle obesity". Health. CNN.com (CNN). Retrieved 2012-10-20. 
  29. ^ Piaza, Joe (March 27, 2012). "Church spreads the gospel of healthy eating". FoxNews.com (Fox News Channel). Retrieved 2012-10-20. 
  30. ^ Norris, Janice (January 7, 2014). "Health is wealth: Start a new lifestyle with the Daniel Plan". Stuttgart Daily Leader. Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  31. ^ "Scoop: THE VIEW on ABC - Week of December 23, 2013". Broadway World. December 18, 2013. Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  32. ^ Fresno County Public Library Staff (January 4, 2014). "Library Bookshelf: Desolation of Smaug guidebook available". The Fresno Bee. Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  33. ^ a b c d e f Burton, Robert A. (May 12, 2008). "Brain scam: Why is PBS airing Dr. Daniel Amen's self-produced infomercial for the prevention of Alzheimer's disease?". Salon. Retrieved 2014-03-11. 
  34. ^ a b c d Hall, Harriet (March 19, 2013). "Dr. Amen's Love Affair with SPECT Scans". Science-Based Medicine. Retrieved 2014-03-11. 
  35. ^ a b Carroll, Robert Todd (January 1, 2009). "PBS Infomercial for Daniel Amen's Clinics". The Skeptic's Dictionary (Online ed.). Retrieved 2014-03-11. 
  36. ^ Insel, Thomas (October 7, 2010). "Director's Blog: Brain Scans – Not Quite Ready for Prime Time". nimh.nih.gov. National Institute of Mental Health; National Institutes of Health; US Dept. of Health and Human Services. Retrieved 2014-03-14. 
  37. ^ Getler, Michael (May 20, 2008). "Caution: That Program May Not Be From PBS". PBS Ombudsman. pbs.org. PBS. Retrieved 2014-03-14. 
  38. ^ Guallar, E.; Stranges, S.; Mulrow, C.; Appel, L.J. et al. (2013). "Enough is enough: Stop wasting money on vitamin and mineral supplements". Annals of Internal Medicine (editorial) 159 (12): 850–1. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-159-12-201312170-00011. PMID 24490268. 
  39. ^ Rosemond, John (2008). "Ch. 3 Biology in Wonderland". The Diseasing of America's Children: Exposing the ADHD Fiasco and Empowering Parents to Take Back Control. Thomas Nelson. Brain Scan Babble p. 63. ISBN 9781418569211. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]