Parts of the Brain in Detail
In order to begin to understand why Brain SPECT Imagery is an important tool in diagnosis and treatment , we must look at the parts of the human brain and it’s executive functioning.
We will now break down each part of the brain and explain how that particular parts functions. The parts of the brain are the deep limbic system, the prefrontal cortex, the temporal lobes, the cingulated system, and the basal ganglia (Burton, 1996).
The unique function of each part of the brain will be discussed. Later, we will look at why M.H.P.’s need to know about each part of the brain in order to help diagnose patients. The Brain SPECT shows each part of the brain. We will begin with the deep limbic system.
The Deep Limbic System
The deep limbic system is in the center part of your brain. It houses three areas that are crucial for human functioning. These parts are called the olfactory, the hippocampus, and the amygdala. This part of the human brain is about the size of a walnut and is often referred to as the “old mammalian brain” or the “reptile brain”. This is also where the“fight or flight” syndrome comes from in your brain (Molavi, 1997).
The primary function for the olfactory is smell. The amygdala is the nucleus responsible for fear (fight or flight syndrome). The amygdala is also responsible for mood and emotional stimulus and danger signals. The hippocampus is responsible for memory.
Three types of memory are labeled in the hippocampus. Working memory, (short-term memory), declarative memory, (long-term memory) and procedural memory,(repetitive skills) are the three types found here (Rocha do Amaral et al., 2003).
The emotional tone of the brain is found in the deep limbic system. Dr. Amen has found information about this part of the brain using the Brain SPECT Imaging scans that has been beneficial to his patients in the area of diagnosis and treatment.
What he found was that when the deep limbic system is overactive, a negative view takes control of the patients brain. In other words, when the deep limbic system is “hot”, an emotional mental state takes over. Situations that are often neutral can be viewed as a negative situation if the deep limbic system is overactive (Amen, 1998).
Post traumatic stress memories are stored in this area of the brain as well as positive emotional memories. Motivation and drive are also stored here. Dr. Amen has found that motivation is equaled to overactivity in this part of the brain.
Bonding and social connectedness are found in the deep limbic system. Depression and mood disorders such as P.M.S. manifest here when the deep limbic system is hot. Sex drive, sleep and appetite are also found here (Amen, 1998).
A plus in using a Brain SPECT would be that if a patient had an overactive deep limbic system, he or she could see that it was a true biological problem. Say for instance that a patient is depressed. If that patient was resistant to treatment and had a Brain SPECT scan, they would see the actual results of the overactive deep limbic system.
The patient might be more receptive to treatment. Family members who saw the scan might also be more receptive to the reality of the mental illness. Patients often stop blaming themselves for their illness (Amen, 1998).
In the case of bipolar disorder, you often will see an increase in one part of the brain and a decrease in another. A Brain SPECT would show the actual physiology of the patient's brain.
Psychiatrists who are trained in this area could alter medication to fit the patients biological needs instead of second guessing. A second Brain SPECT after a certain amount of time can show how medication is helping a patient's physical brain(Amen, 1998).
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