Vol. 5, No. 3, 1999 Page 2


By Daniel G. Amen, M.D.
Times Books, 1998 ($16.80)

This remarkable book is not specifically about crime or violence, but it is the best book your reviewer has ever read about the physiological aspects of behavior.

Neuropsychiatrist Amen is a nationally recognized expert on the relationship between the brain and behavior, and author of Windows into the ADD Mind and Firestorms in the Brain. He is also director of the Amen Clinic for Behavioral Medicine in Fairfield, CA.

Dr. Amen uses brain imaging to pinpoint where in the brain tendencies toward violence, depression, distractability, obsessiveness, anxiety, impulsivity and ADD occur. Using a nuclear medicine technique called SPECT (for single photon emission computed tomography) he measures blood flow and metabolic activity patterns.

From that information, Dr. Amen prescribes an all-out therapeutic approach. If his dozens of case histories and brain scan images are to be believed, he has had remarkable success.

A separate chapter describes each of the five brain areas most involved with behavior, followed by a chapter of treatments for that particular area. Prescriptions can include drugs, psychology, nutrition, exercise, meditation, self hypnosis, biofeedback, audiovisual stimulation, even aromatherapy. The prescriptions require a real commitment from the patient, but the evidence of dramatic improvement documented by Dr. Amen should be a great source of encouragement.

While a great number of books have investigated the biological causes of aberrant behavior, Dr. Amen's is one of the first we have encountered that offers a wide range of solutions. If Dr. Amen's results are reproducible by other researchers, this could prove to be an invaluable resource for professionals dealing with criminals, delinquents, and other people who exhibit irrational or antisocial behavior.


I have studied hundreds of children, teenagers, and adults who exhibited violent or aggressive behavior and compared them to people who have never been violent. The brain of the violent patient is clearly different from that of the nonviolent person.


When your brain works right, so can you. When your brain doesn't work right, neither can you... Seeing these scans caused me to challenge many of my basic beliefs about people, character, free will, and good and evil that had been ingrained in me as a Catholic schoolboy.


The brain is the seat of feelings and behavior. Your brain creates your world-a radical statement about ordinary thinking. Yet it is your brain that perceives and experiences. Everything begins and ends in the brain. How our brains work determines the very quality of our lives: how happy we will be, how well we'll get along with others, how successful we will be in our profession.


Many people with ADD unconsciously seek conflict as a way to stimulate their own [prefrontal cortex]. They do not know they do it. They do not plan to do it. They deny that they do it. And yet they do it just the same.


What choices do we really have about our behavior? Probably not as many as we think.


[With treatment,] people who had previously been unable to change developed a capacity for new skills and behaviors. They developed more access to productive brain activity and more ability to make changes (even though they had always had the will to change).

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