Change Your Brain and Change Your Life on PBS

Update: wow this guy puts out a lot of books. So a couple of years back I wrote the original article you see below, but I did want to update this piece and say a few words about Dr. Amen’s latest PBS special and book. It’s Use Your Brain to Change Your Age: Secrets to Look, Feel, and Think Younger Every Day and you can take a pretty good look over at Amazon to see other people’s reviews.

Well this is clearly my year to watch PBS. I’ve watched more PBS this year than the last 5 years. Easily. I’m gonna have to send them some money this year I can tell. And this is clearly the year for PBS to tackle mental health. I think it was only a week ago I was writing about a show they aired that focused on the variations of depression. And on June 2nd they aired Dr. Dan Amen’s Change Your Brain Change Your Life. It appears to also be one of the longest pledge drives in the history of pledge drives. I mean all of the shows I’ve been watching during the last month have been part of the drive. Well that, what you can you do? It’s public TV. (Although here’s a weird twist, on a recent 2010 “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew” Dennis Rodman actually GOES to Dr. Amen’s clinic for a brain scan, I can’t seem to stop writing about that show…).

As some of you regular readers know I’m doing…OK. I’ve got a lot of positive career and future prospects that would be very hard to derail-so I’ve got that to look forward to, but I’m still haunted by being cheat on and left by a woman. I primarily can’t see HOW a person would do that to ME . I do everything I can for people. So I just ponder and ponder, and THAT is one of the strong points about this program addresses; how to change things.

And his 2011 book The Amen Solution

Dr. Amen (yeah I know what it looks like, but he pronounces it so that it sounds like “almond”) proposition is that he and his team, at the conventionally named Amen Center, have looked at thousands of brain images and interviewed a similarly large number of people, and combined with his personal years in mental health they have come to the conclusion that the brain is an important factor in how we behave. Hahahahahahah! Yeah, again, I know. I know it sounds obvious and like a LOT of time and money got wasted, but really they took a different approach. His belief is that brain structure, and chemistry can actually affect mental health and behavior AND that it can be changed. Now we’re getting somewhere! Take a look at this ugly brain and this less ugly brain.

I believe that particular image was early in the show when he was talking about a guy who had inhaled fumes. But he got into a variety of illnesses like Depression, Anxiety, Attention Deficit Disorder, Impulsive Behavior, Alzheimer’s disease. And how showed how all the things you would think can affect the brains structure and behavior DO have an effect. He described how drinking, smoking, drugs, aging and actual physical trauma to the organ itself (whose consistency he compared to butter at room temperature) can all degrade brain quality. That’s ASIDE from the natural degenerative nature of the brain. Now, let’s get back to ME! He talked about 3 areas of the brain that he looks at that seem to really give him an idea about bad behavior. The prefrontal cortex, a section I didn’t quite catch the name of that sounded like “singular” and lastly the limbic system. You can actually find out when it’s going to air again here in the Chicago area and maybe you can catch the name. In fact I strongly recommend the either watching it, and buying it with a donation to PBS or if that “premium” price is too steep, I’ve got a couple of Amazon links in here.

But let me take you through some of the symptoms and his recommended solutions. In particular the ailing prefrontal description so ACCURATELY described my ex-woman it was shocking.

Prefrontal cortex issues

Low activity and low energy


Bored easy

Conflict instigators



Short attention

Solution is for them to write a list of what they want


high protein low carbs

Cingular (sp) issues

Stuck on certain behavior patters

Fault finders-see problems

Rigid, inflexible

They prefer having options


Stuck on grudes

Resolve with; exercise, high carbs low protein

Limbic system (our emotions) issues

Our ability to connect to people

Where we feel pain

Overworked people feel helpless and hopeless depress, thoughts come in that make you feel bad. These thoughts have to be consciously countered

Have a lot of pain

Not interested in things that are usually fun

Resolve with; exercise, fish oil, avoid toxic substances get more sleep,

And he recommends for everybody to exercise, protect your head, eat right; lean protein, good carbs, (non blood sugar raising) omega 3 and water, green tea, oranges red bell peppers, blueberries, spinach, broccoli, tuna, avocado-basically “rainbow colored” food. So there you go, it’s a recap but you really need the details to understand the reasoning and the accurate rendition of these solutions.

Depression Help Options Covered by PBS Special

Depression Out of the Shadows aired here on local PBS channel WTTW Chicago on May 21, 2008. I stayed home and watched. It hasn’t been quite a year yet since the “event” in my life that took me into a depression spiral that this blog is pretty much a byproduct of. Having the type of deep pain that literally makes you cease functioning in a normal way is what people in the profession categorize clinical depression. But I didn’t get help. I “self medicated.” And before you start jumping to conclusions, it was with vitamins. And it’s hard to believe but I wrote this piece about what actually worked a full SIX MONTHS AGO. Wow! But here’s the really awful thing about depression ; I’m better today, and I can function, but the “trigger” event and all the bad feelings about it are still so fresh in my mind it is as if NO time has passed at all. I still spend a good part of every day, despite how mind crushingly busy I am, in my head going over the events, the fallout, the ramifications and the causes that in MY mind really destroyed my life. That’s depression. I know I’ve got it. AND, I refuse to get help. So the PBS special on depression took a very inclusive selection of Americans to give their story.

  • · The old a young guy
  • · They had an old guy
  • · They had a young woman
  • · They had an old woman
  • · They had a black guy
  • · They had a business guy
  • · They had gay guy
  • · They woman who had just given birth

So on the one hand it’s great they “covered all the bases,” but by so blatantly sending the message “it can happen to you, no matter who you are” it was almost a parody of a PBS special. But it’s good, you know. I mean, hell I feel like Brooke Shields out here talking about my troubles-but they’re all right. So many people around the world, and in even in this country of plenty, feel depressed. And trying to discover the “why” is pretty much pointless. People just are. Unless there’s some specific trigger event like they talked about in the program.

In my case it was a woman leaving me-and it’s covered in various parts of this blog; repeatedly. But it was a life changing and depressing event. Nothing in the world like changing your life for a person and then having them cheat on you AND leave you. Even if the person is really not a great person. Because my ex-girlfriend is not a great human, and she has mental issues (as far as I’m concerned). She’s a classic example of the kind of depression that was talked about in the program last night; a person with a perfectly normal life who just gets no joy from anything, but tries to hide it. She doesn’t smile or laugh very often, doesn’t really hug her kids, and is not satisfied with her life despite achieving all the goals she wanted in life. Just a mess. And the day before she started cheating on my she agreed to get help. I found a place and and had to get her to admit her issues were not “normal.” And you know, there’s a 99% chance that was why she bolted. The prospect of getting help was too much for her. And that’s one of the things they talk about in the PBS special as they show all these various cases. So you get to see how all these people discovered their depression, and how they coped. After the program there was sort of a round table with a bunch of doctors. But here’s a link to the program site. And usually with PBS their stuff ends up online after it repeats several times on the channel, so you should be able to catch it.