SPECT and DESA® Scans: Enhanced Diagnostic and Treatment Capabilities for Clients with Chronic or Complex Conditions

For some clients at Promises, psychological and emotional problems that preceded their addiction to drugs or alcohol can complicate treatment. In order to understand these psychiatric issues better Promises provides the latest brain imaging techniques, SPECT scans and DESA® testing which thoroughly and safely analyze the brain and central nervous system. When these are combined with neuropsychological testing, they can differentiate the causes of different psychological symptoms and enable more precise and effective treatment.

When the brain functions correctly, people tend to behave correctly. Psychiatric symptoms are associated with changes in how specific regions of the brain function. SPECT imaging can fully evaluate the cause of mental symptoms by showing how brain activity has been altered. These studies may be particularly helpful in clients with a wide range of clinical symptoms and those who have failed to benefit from treatment in the past.

SPECT scans allow patients to obtain an accurate, reliable physical representation of changes in regional brain functioning that are linked to their problems. For clients who have trouble accepting that their drug abuse is damaging their brain and central nervous system, the scans provide incontrovertible evidence of the changes that have occurred. By advancing a medical understanding of their addiction, the scans help decrease feelings of denial, shame, guilt, helplessness, and self-loathing and increase self-forgiveness. Follow-up scans allow patients to see how their brain function improves with treatment.

SPECT scans are performed by Dr. Daniel G. Amen, the country’s foremost clinician in the use of SPECT scans for psychiatric diagnosis. Amen Clinics, Inc. (ACI) has the world’s largest database of functional brain scans related to psychiatric medicine, and has performed nearly 50,000 scans. Dr. Amen is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine, where he teaches medical students and psychiatric residents on the use of brain imaging in clinical practice.

Another helpful tool offered through Promises is the DESA®, or Digital Electroencephalogram Spectral Analysis. An EEG-based neuroelectrical system developed at Harvard’s Boston Children’s Hospital, the DESA® analyzes the central nervous system, its input processes, and the processes and expression of information. The brain puts out microscopic amounts of electrical energy that can be captured and evaluated, and this information can reveal previously undiagnosed abnormalities and/or confirm or rule out diagnoses.

Because of its sophisticated technology, the DESA® is the most versatile tool available to clinicians. By pinpointing the source of brain electrical abnormalities, it helps clinicians determine the most effective type of treatment to use, including medication and therapy. The DESA® also looks at visual, sound, and language processing, which can help gather precise information to design a course of treatment, including medication intervention when necessary. This helps obtain a clearer picture of the brains’ functioning.

Promises works with Dr. Thomas Schweller of Yellen & Associates for this procedure. Dr. Schweller is a licensed pediatric and adult neurologist with a specialty in Electroencephalography. He practices in Southern California with offices in San Diego and Northridge, and is currently an Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Neurosciences at the University of California at San Diego.

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