New SPECT database holds 100K scans for psychiatric study

A searchable database of 100,000 SPECT neuroimaging studies from 111 different countries and incorporating subjects ranging from nine months to 101 years old was introduced today by Amen Clinics, a network of psychiatric clinics based in Costa Mesa, Calif. The intention of the database is to promote open collaboration and interdisciplinary study of psychiatric and related disorders.

The SPECT database includes de-identified clinical information regarding brain function and blood flow that can be used by researchers throughout the world to learn more about connections between certain behaviors and diseases or injuries that are not very well understood.

The database was funded in part by the Seeds Foundation in Hong Kong and developed by Amen Clinics founder Daniel G. Amen, MD, and a team of investigators, including lead researcher Kristen Willeumier, PhD.

"It is my hope that our database will begin to change psychiatric practice from the current approach of just making diagnoses based on symptom clusters – which is the same today as in Abe Lincoln's time – to using neuroimaging tools such as SPECT on a day-to-day basis to better target treatment and improve outcomes for people who suffer," said Amen in a press release.    

The stockpile of scans has contributed to several studies—one such study monitored response to treatment for depression and another revealed that brain damage from sports-related brain injuries can lead to impaired judgment and impulse control from trauma to the frontal lobe specifically in linemen and to memory dysfunction in defensive backs due to temporal lobe injury.

The Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology have included 10 studies leveraging data from the SPECT scans, including a study that showed lower blood flow to areas of the brain including the amygdala in patients with aggression; another study indicated that ADD/ADHD may be related to poor blood flow in certain parts of the brain, including the prefrontal cortex; and another study links eating disorders with an area of the right frontal lobe related to the tendency to focus on the negative aspects of things during concentration exercises.