Review: Change Your Brain, Change Your Life by Daniel Amen

During the Tata Literature Festival, 2012 in Mumbai I had attended Dr. James Fallon session on how the brain, not the mind, greatly affects human behaviour - from serial killers to rapists. And this was followed by another session jointly by Dr. Fallon and Faramerz Dabhoiwala. Dr. Fallon's personality and knowledge had immediately impressed upon the audience (and also because he himself was a borderline psychopath!). So when I stumbled upon this book, I was, at first, in splits in my head because, I thought to myself, this author still doesn't know about the new found medical discoveries concerning the brain. But the title itself was intriguing enough for me to pick it up. All of us have had enough of self-help books which bombard you on how to 'do things which are good for you, your family, your friends, your colleagues and the whole universe' and how to always 'think positive, be positive, be happy and take charge of your life'. These kinds always focused on the mind, not the brain. The title challenged my own older beliefs of 'changing one's mind'. I, for a moment, thought it would have been a colossal mistake on part of the publishers to use the word 'brain' instead of 'mind'. How on earth could one change one's own brain? A quick flip of the book exposed my naivety. 

Through years of research and practice Dr. Amen has found lot of correlations between the brain, yes the physical part, and human behaviour. He gives at least fifty case examples from his own clinic, if not more, to show how he has helped people cope with their own selves. He doesn't proclaim that all human nature is pure brain, but a combination of brain (the over and under activity in some parts, the injuries, the deformities) plus experiences (childhood, growing up, adolescence, marriage, parenting etc.) plus substances (whether food, drugs or alcohol). He introduces us to the "five of the brain systems that are most intimately involved with our behaviour". They are: the deep limbic system, basal ganglia, prefrontal cortex, cingulate and temporal lobes

In the first chapter he outlines the history of brain imaging techniques and how they evolved over time. He brings out how SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) studies almost ended after they were replaced with CAT and later MRI studies. In fact the whole book has hundreds of SPECT images for various cases he covers. In the second chapter he covers few of his cases and how SPECT scans helped him identify the problem area (one of the five systems of the brain) and how appropriate treatment (whether medication or otherwise) was used effectively. The next chapters cover in stirring details each of the five systems and their functions and problems associated with each when not functioning normally. Each problem is followed by one or multiple medical cases from the author's own clinic. All the chapters, which cover the systems, are followed by a checklist which will help you identify the likelihood of problems with one or multiple systems of yours. I, personally, completed all of them and probably have a problem in one of them (but it is not unnerving me!). The suggestions are good and can be easily practiced. This book covers disorders of all sorts concerned with sleep, intimacy, anger, impulse, decisiveness, fear, behaviour, time management, social skills and more.

The last bunch of chapters cover common but serious problems of violence, drugs and alcohol, marital problems and what can be done about them. He even lists down the medication he has treated his patients with. Some of the suggestions, though, are beyond me. Like when he stirs up god, very rarely though, as a judge or right and wrong and as a source of power. Apart from this, the book is full of practical advice and has helped me remove my colored lens when judging self-help books. I will highly recommend this book to everyone, for relationships of all kinds form such an important part of our lives and when there are hiccups in any of them we or the others bear the brunt. This will make you realize that lot of things are beyond the control of an individual and it is not just a matter of anyone wanting, willing or behaving in a certain desirable way but also how an individual's brain is wired. He also describes how nice and not nice experiences actually change the way brain works.

Grab a copy for a healthy life,today!


  1. gonna buy this one right away! my new recommendation Predictably Irrational..waiting for your review on that one! :-D

    Happy Blogging!!!