Saturday, February 20, 2010

Brain Imaging Science and Best Practices in Education

Neuropsychology is a fascinating field. Thomas Insel, MD, PhD, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, said “Brain imaging in clinical practice is the next major advance in psychiatry.”
Becoming more familiar with this science can improve educational practices. Absent concrete evidence of brain functioning, an effective multidisciplinary team can usually only produce an Individualized Educational Program (IEP) that seeks to impliment best practices that is too often based on speculation. Specially designed instruction requires a wide range of pedagogical tools and professional knowledge to effectively utilize interventions. Yet, interventions, including the use of medications, are too often grounded in trial and error. By contrast, when the brain can be reliably examined before, during, and after the introduction of interventions, treatment errors can be drastically mitigated.
For instance, increased activity in the anterior cingulate gyrus and prefrontal cortex is often associated with problems shifting attention, which may be clinically manifested by cognitive inflexibility, obsessive thoughts, compulsive behaviors, excessive worrying, argumentativeness, oppositional behavior or "getting stuck" on certain thoughts or actions. How often are these behaviors handled in strictly behavioral terms? Yet, there has been found to be a strong association with these findings and obsessive-compulsive disorders, oppositional defiant disorders, eating disorders, addictive disorders, anxiety disorders, Tourette’s syndrome and chronic pain--especially when combined with increased basal ganglia activity (Amen, 2007). When clinically indicated, hyperactivity in this part of the brain may be helped by anti-obsessive antidepressants or supplements that increase serotonin levels. Specific behavior modification techniques can also be useful for reducing activity in this part of the brain.
By contrast, when this area of the brain is low in activity it is often associated with low motivation and verbal expression. An "off centered cingulate" may be indicative of a brain injury.
Brain imaging science provides valuable information that can lead to more effective interventions, including natural treatments to optimize the brain whenever possible. The advantage of this work is to make the diagnostic process and treatment recommendations as scientifically reliable as possible. Daniel Amen, has compiled brain science research since 1991. The Amen Clinics website includes 300 SPECT images. You can also read the related scientific literature including:
Summary articles of Amen's work with brain SPECT imaging. Also, over 2300 scientific abstracts on brain imaging for psychiatry and neurology, including extensive tables that summarize the brain SPECT research are categorized for:
Brain Trauma
Obsessive, Compulsive, Spectrum Disorders
Treatment Effects
A healthy brain is associated with a healthy, successful life. We should all strive to keep our brain healthy. Success starts with a healthy brain. Failure is often the result of a brain gone wrong. Educators should become familiar with the organ of learning and teach students how to optimize their brains. Regardless of how badly you have been to your brain, it may still be possible to change your brain and change your life.
Please browse the Natural Standards database on the research underlying natural treatments in psychiatry and medicine. As educators, we must always remain current with available knowledge in order to ensure best practice.