Speaking of brain scamming, Mind Hacks linked to an article in Salon.com about a disreputable informercial unwittingly shown on PBS multiple times:
Brain scamBack in December, The Neurocritic dissected the neurohuckster's editorial in the Los Angeles Times about SPECT-scanning the brains of presidential candidates:
Why is PBS airing Dr. Daniel Amen's self-produced infomercial for the prevention of Alzheimer's disease?
By Robert Burton
May. 12, 2008 | It's 10 on a Saturday night and on my local PBS station a diminutive middle-aged doctor with a toothy smile and televangelical delivery is facing a rapt studio audience. "I will show you how to make your brain great, including how to prevent Alzheimer's disease," he declares. "And I'm not kidding."...the doctor, Daniel Amen, is being interviewed by KQED host Greg Sherwood. Sherwood is wildly enthusiastic. After reading Amen's book, "Change Your Brain, Change Your Life," Sherwood says, "The first thing I wanted to do was to get a brain scan." He turns to Amen. "You could start taking care 10 years in advance of ever having a symptom and prevent Alzheimer's disease," he says. "Yes, prevent Alzheimer's disease," Amen chimes in.Wait a minute. Prevent Alzheimer's disease? Is he kidding? But Sherwood is already holding up Amen's package of DVDs on learning your risk factors for A.D., as well as his book with a section titled "Preventing Alzheimer's." Then, as though offering a landmark insight into a tragic disease -- and encouraging viewers to pledge money to the station -- Sherwood beams and says, "This is the kind of program that you've come to expect from PBS."If so, that's a shame...
Getting inside their heads ... really insideSPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) is a relatively inexpensive cousin of PET scanning (positron emission tomography) with lower spatial resolution. The Neurocritic is not all that knowledgeable about SPECT as an imaging method, but these authors are (Committee on the Mathematics and Physics of Emerging Dynamic Biomedical Imaging, National Research Council), in case you're interested in learning more.
Presidential candidates' health is a campaign issue. So what about their brains?
By Daniel G. Amen
December 5, 2007
. . .
Is the brain health of a presidential candidate a fair topic in an election year? Certainly Dick Cheney's heart condition wasn't off-limits in 2000... Should we go so far as to do brain scans? Of candidates for the Oval Office? Some people might consider discussing brain health a ridiculous idea. Not me.
As a neuropsychiatrist and brain-imaging expert, [NOTE: huh, 9 papers in mostly low-profile journals] I want our elected leaders to be some of the "brain healthiest people" in the land. How do you know about the brain health of a presidential candidate unless you look? ...
Three of the last four presidents have shown clear brain pathology. [NOTE: oh really?? we only have evidence for AD in Reagan, as much as we'd like to believe that George W. has brain damage.] President Reagan's Alzheimer's disease was evident during his second term in office. Nonelected people were covering up his forgetfulness and directing the country's business. Few people knew it, but we had a national crisis. Brain studies have been shown to predict Alzheimer's five to nine years before people have their first symptoms. [NOTE: uh...no. Published studies say 2-3 years.]
Back to Robert Burton and Salon.com:
"SPECT scans are not sufficiently sensitive or specific to be useful in the diagnosis of A.D.," neurologist Michael Greicius , who runs the Stanford University memory clinic, and has a special interest in the use of functional brain imaging in the diagnosis of A.D., tells me. "The PBS airing of Amen's program provides a stamp of scientific validity to work which has no scientific validity."Throughout March and April this year, "Change Your Brain, Change Your Life" aired nearly 1,300 times on PBS stations across the country, reaching more than 75 percent of U.S. television households. ...the nation's public broadcasting system did not vet "Change Your Brain, Change Your Life" for scientific validity. As a result, it broadcast what amounts to an unregulated infomercial for Amen's unproven treatments.But it gets even worse:
Amen ... has not followed a traditional scientific path. He received a biology degree from Southern California College, a Pentecostal school, now Vanguard University ("We believe The Bible to be the inspired and only infallible and authoritative Word of God"), and earned his medical degree from Oral Roberts University School of Medicine, defunct as of 1989. "One of the sustaining factors in my work has been my own personal faith," he declared in his 2002 book... "From the first month that I started to order these (SPECT) scans, I felt that they had a special place in science and that I was led by God to pursue this work." . . . And yet Amen's sense of calling hasn't led him to undertake the high-quality clinical investigations that would lend scientific credence to his claims...Not surprisingly, Amen has his own page at Quackwatch. My question is, how did he get all this free publicity from PBS? Burton had a hard time finding an answer.
In trying to divine PBS' role and obligations in airing such an obviously controversial figure as Amen, I got the proverbial runaround...Did a local PBS station, or PBS headquarters, do proper vetting? Michael Getler, the PBS ombudsman, didn't have an answer for me and forwarded my message to "the top people." I then got a note from Joseph Campbell, PBS vice president of fundraising programming, who said, "PBS is not responsible for the content of those programs obtained from outside sources (other than PBS); it is up to each individual station to decide on the merits of such non-PBS produced programs."Daniel Amen responds to "Brain scam"
To learn about more reSPECTable uses of SPECT in Alzheimer's Disease, consult The Whole Brain Atlas.
Here is a mid-ventricular slice which demonstrates the commonest finding in functional imaging of Alzheimer's disease. The dark blue regions in the parietal lobes represent areas of decreased blood flow or perfusion. This reduction in blood flow is due in part to the underlying atrophy, in part to the presence of diseased brain, and in part to the functional "disconnection" of this from other brain regions affected by the disease.
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