Dr. Daniel Amen said nurturing one’s mind is something people often overlook.
Amen, a double board-certified psychiatrist and expert on the human brain, was at the Buckhead home of Amanda Brown-Olmstead Wednesday night to speak to residents on the importance of brain health. He founded the Amen Clinics, which have six locations, including an Atlanta one that opened in Sandy Springs in September.
The Newport Beach, Calif., resident decided to study the brain after serving as a combat field medic in the Army beginning in 1972.
“It’s the hardware of the soul,” he said of the brain. “It’s the commander and control center. It’s the part that decides who you are. It’s what drives us to make decisions. Plus, I wanted to write and I didn’t want to write about intestines.”
In an interview and during his speech, Amen covered a variety of topics.
More than 3,000 former NFL players, claiming they suffered brain damage while playing and the league did not do enough to warn them of the dangers, have sued the NFL. About 140 suits were merged into one and filed with U.S. District Court Judge Anita B. Brody inPhiladelphia. Both sides are now awaiting Brody’s decision, scheduled for some time next month, he said.
Amen was asked about the suicides of former NFL stars such as Junior Seau, who died in May, likely had brain damage from his playing days and, according to a toxicology report released in August, did not have illegal drugs or alcohol in his system when he died.
“It horrifies me,” Amen said. “The thing that horrifies me is he was not going for help. We could have rehabilitated him. … We have found that one player can get a lot better if they do the right things.”
Amen said those things include “avoid things that hurt the brain, including drugs, alcohol and obesity. Also, do the right things like getting enough sleep, certain types of exercises and smart supplements.”
He has scanned the brains of 120 current and former NFL players and has met with them. In 2009 he was invited to speak at an event hosted by retired NFL players.
“The NFL really was wrong to players about the problems,” he said, referring to brain damage suffered while playing. “They’ve had a concussion committee since 1994 and had really bad advice [to players]. My daughter is 9 and most 9-year-olds could figure out that NFL players suffer brain damage while playing. [With help], they can get so much healthier.”
The doctor said he stresses proper diet and exercise to improve brain function.
Amen, who hosts six TV shows about the brain, is a five-time New York Times bestselling author and has written more than 30 books. His latest, “Unleash the Power of the Female Brain,” is set to be published in February.
Amen said people would be surprised at some facts about the human brain.
“There are 22 studies that say the actual physical size of your brain goes down as you get more obese,” he said. “When I heard that, I immediately lost 20 pounds. I am as fit now as I was when I was in the Army at age 18.”
As she introduced Amen before his speech, Olmstead said he has had a huge impact on patients’ lives.
“He’s a person who has looked at more than 79,000 brain scans,” she said. “He has donated more than $40 million for public broadcasting.”