Daniel Amen

Daniel Amen
Born Daniel Gregory Amen
1954 (age 6162)
Encino, Los Angeles
Nationality American
Alma mater Vanguard University of Southern California
Oral Roberts University School of Medicine (M.D., 1982), Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Tripler Army Medical Center.
Occupation Psychiatrist, psychiatric researcher, medical researcher, author, lecturer, professor
Known for Amen's Classification
Website amenclinics.com

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]

Amen's clinics offer medical services to people who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other disorders. They use 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.[6] However, Amen's use of SPECT scans to aid in psychiatric and neurological clinical diagnosis is based on unproven claims and has been widely criticized.[1][7][8][9][10]

Amen has done studies on brain injuries affecting professional athletes,[3] and he is a post-concussion consultant for the National Football League.[11]

Early life and education

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

He received his undergraduate biology degree from Southern California College in 1978[12] and his doctorate from Oral Roberts University School of Medicine in 1982.[13][14] Amen did his general psychiatric training at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.,[14] and his child and adolescent psychiatry training at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu.[14] Amen fulfilled 200 hours of training to obtain his radioactive materials license from the Institute of Nuclear Medicine Education. He then carried out the required 1,000 hours of clinical supervision in reading scans.[1] Amen is double board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in General Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.[15]

Business activities

Amen is the chief executive officer and medical director of the six Amen Clinics.[1][14]

SPECT scanning

Amen's practices use single-photon emission computed tomography, or SPECT, scans of brain activity in an attempt to compare the activity of a person's brain to a known healthy model. Amen prescribes both medication and non-medicative courses of treatment, depending on the case. He also performs before-and-after SPECT scans, which claim to assess how well treatment is working.[16] Amen's clinics claim to have the world's largest database of functional brain scans for neuropsychiatry.[14] As of 2009, Amen said he had scanned 50,000 people at an estimated cost of $170 million.[17]

John Seibyl of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging has stated that there is no debate that SPECT is not valuable for diagnosing psychological disorders.[7] A 2012 review by the American Psychiatric Association found that neuroimaging studies "have yet to impact significantly the diagnosis or treatment of individual patients."[18] The review also states that neuroimaging studies "do not provide sufficient specificity and sensitivity to accurately classify individual cases with respect to the presence of a psychiatric illness."[18] The American Psychiatric Association has concluded that, "the available evidence does not support the use brain imaging for clinical diagnosis or treatment of psychiatric disorders in children and adolescents."[19] According to cognitive neuroscience researcher Martha Farah and psychologist S. J. Gillihan, "The lack of empirical validation has led to widespread condemnation of diagnostic SPECT as premature and unproven."[9]


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".[8] 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.[6]

An initial session at one of Amen's clinics costs about $3,500.[1] Amen's claims for the use of SPECT are "no more than myth and poppycock, buffaloing an unsuspecting public," according to officials at major psychiatric and neuroscience associations and research centers.[1]

Work for athletes

One of Amen's clinics provides brain scans for current and former National Football League players.[11][20] Amen made the initial diagnosis of brain damage in NFL kicker Tom Dempsey.[3] During medical examinations and scans, Amen found three holes in Dempsey's brain, along with other damage.[3] He has also provided diagnosis and therapy for hockey player Paul Kariya, related to his concussion issues; Amen advised Kariya to retire as a professional, which he did.[3][11]

Writing and ideas

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."[21][22]

In his book Making a Good Brain Great, he provided his analysis and recommendations for brain improvement purported to enhance a person's overall happiness and ability. For example, he suggested that hobbies which challenge the brain are important to ensuring a happy life, as he believes they force the brain to learn and evolve over time.[23] Davi Thornton characterized the book as consisting of "commonplace recommendations for self-improvement."[21]

Healing the Hardware of the Soul, written by Amen in 2008, was reviewed in the American Journal of Psychiatry by Andrew Leuchter. "Dr. Amen makes a good case for the use of brain imaging to explain and medicalize mental disorders," Leuchter said. "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." Leuchter concluded that Amen "has not subjected his treatment approaches to the level of systematic scientific scrutiny expected for scientifically based medical practice."[24]

In his book The Brain in Love, Amen described the brain activity that occurs during chanting meditation as similar to those which take place during the feeling of love and sexual activity.[25]

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".[26] 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".[27] Warren encouraged adoption of the plan by all member churches in his network of Saddleback churches.[28] 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."[29] Amen, Warren, and Hyman appeared on the television show The View to discuss the Daniel Plan and 3,000 people came to a rally at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California to hear the three talk about the plan.[30][31]

In 2013 Amen released an updated 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]

Television programs

Amen has produced television programs about his theories. One of them, "Change Your Brain, Change Your Life," was aired by PBS affiliates 1,300 times in 2008 during fund-raising drives.[33] Another, "Magnificent Mind at Any Age with Dr. Daniel Amen," was aired before January 1, 2009.[34] Neurologist Michael Greicius, director of the Stanford Center for Memory Disorders and principal investigator of the Functional Imaging in Neuropsychiatric Disorders Laboratory at Stanford University stated, "The PBS airing of Amen’s program provides a stamp of scientific validity to work which has no scientific validity."[33][35] These programs have been described as infomercials for Amen's clinics. The program's depiction of the "wonders of ginkgo and other 'natural' products such as St. John's wort." was also criticized.[33][34] Alternative-medicine skeptic and physician Harriet A. Hall and neurologist Robert A. Burton criticized PBS for the airing of these programs.[33][36] Michael Getler, the PBS ombudsman, replied that "PBS had nothing to do with the 'Brain' program's content and did not vet the program in any way." Local PBS affiliates "make their own editorial decisions based on their own guidelines about what to air," he wrote.[36][37]

Dietary supplements

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 diseasethere is however no known benefit from taking such supplements except for specific substance deficiencies.[34][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.[36]


Amen's popularity and financial success have been discussed in the media.[5][7] In 2012, The Washington Post Magazine ran a cover story titled "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] Journalist Sanjiv Bhattacharya wrote that Amen's critics likened him "to a self-help guru rather than a scientist, on account of all the books, DVDs and nutritional supplements which he hawks so shamelessly on infomercials" and that Amen was "the most controversial psychiatrist in America [who] may also be the most commercially successful."[7] Amen stated he felt the accolades went hand-in-hand and that "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?"[7]

Memberships and recognition

Amen is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.[1][39] He has also been an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry and human behavior in the University of California, Irvine, College of Medicine.[14]

Amen is the author of more than 30 books with combined sales of about one million copies.[1][7] Five of his books have been New York Times bestsellers.[5] In 2015, Amen's The Daniel Plan received the Christian Book of the Year Award.[40]

Selected publications


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 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.
  2. "Amen, Daniel Gregory, MD", ABPN verify CERT, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN).
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 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. 1 2 3 Shapiro, Eliza (December 14, 2012). "Can Daniel Amen read your mind?". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2013-10-09.
  6. 1 2 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.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Bhattacharya, Sanjiv (February 6, 2013). "Dr Daniel Amen interview: The shrink who believes technology will replace the couch". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2013-10-13.
  8. 1 2 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.
  9. 1 2 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 3597411Freely accessible. PMID 23505613. The lack of empirical validation has led to widespread condemnation of diagnostic SPECT as premature and unproven.
  10. Hall, Harriet (2007) [2005]. "A Skeptical View of SPECT Scans and Dr. Daniel Amen". Quackwatch. Retrieved 2014-03-11.
  11. 1 2 3 "All-Star Kariya ends career". Tampa Bay Times. June 29, 2011.
  12. "Newport Beach resident receives Vanguard honor". Daily Pilot. 2002-03-26.
  13. "Daniel Amen, MD". Doctor Finder. U.S. News & World Report.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Biography: Daniel G. Amen, MD". WebMD.
  15. See "Daniel Amen," https://www.certificationmatters.org/is-your-doctor-board-certified/search-now.aspx
  16. 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.
  17. 1 2 Chancellor, B.; Chatterjee, A. (2011). "Brain branding: When neuroscience and commerce collide". AJOB Neuroscience. 2 (4): 18. doi:10.1080/21507740.2011.611123. Amen Clinics, Inc., has scanned more than 50,000 patients at a cost close to $170 million.
  18. 1 2 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" (PDF). APA Official Actions (Resource Document). Board of Trustees; American Psychiatric Association (APA).
  19. Council on Children, Adolescents; Their Families (January 2005). "Resource Document on Brain Imaging and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry With Special Emphasis on Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT)" (PDF). APA Official Actions. Joint Reference Committee; American Psychiatric Association (APA). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-05-23. Retrieved 2014-03-14.
  20. 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.
  21. 1 2 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.
  22. Quinn, Judy (March 1, 1999). "Get a 'Life'". Publishers Weekly. 245 (9).". . . "the book's stronger than expected out-of-the-gate success."
  23. 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.
  24. Leuchter, A.F. (2009). "Healing the Hardware of the Soul: Enhance Your Brain to Improve Your Work, Love, and Spiritual Life" (PDF). American Journal of Psychiatry (book review). 166 (5): 625. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2009.08121843.
  25. 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.
  26. Martin, Rachel (December 8, 2013). "Rick Warren writes a faith-based diet book". Weekend Edition. NPR News.
  27. Park, Madison (January 24, 2012). "Rick Warren and church tackle obesity". Health. CNN.com. CNN. Retrieved 2012-10-20.
  28. Piaza, Joe (March 27, 2012). "Church spreads the gospel of healthy eating". FoxNews.com. Fox News Channel. Retrieved 2012-10-20.
  29. Norris, Janice (January 7, 2014). "Health is wealth: Start a new lifestyle with the Daniel Plan". Stuttgart Daily Leader. Retrieved 2014-01-21.
  30. "Scoop: THE VIEW on ABC - Week of December 23, 2013". Broadway World. December 18, 2013. Retrieved 2014-01-21.
  31. Macvean, Mary (June 16, 2014). "Cross training: Christians embrace Daniel Plan's Mind-Body-Spirit Diet". LA Times. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  32. Fresno County Public Library Staff (January 4, 2014). "Library Bookshelf: Desolation of Smaug guidebook available". The Fresno Bee. Retrieved 2014-01-21.
  33. 1 2 3 4 5 6 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. 1 2 3 Carroll, Robert Todd (January 1, 2009). "PBS Infomercial for Daniel Amen's Clinics". The Skeptic's Dictionary (Online ed.). Retrieved 2014-03-11.
  35. "Translational Research - Stanford Center for Memory Disorders - Neurology & Neurological Sciences - Stanford University School of Medicine: Diagnosing Alzheimer's Disease". neurology.stanford.edu. Retrieved 2014-07-02.
  36. 1 2 3 Hall, Harriet (March 19, 2013). "Dr. Amen's Love Affair with SPECT Scans". Science-Based Medicine. Retrieved 2014-03-11.
  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.
  40. Charles, Ron (5 May 2015). "Rick Warren's weight-loss plan named Christian Book of the Year". Washington Post. Retrieved 30 June 2015.

Further reading

External links

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