Why rich people like the Kardashians are obsessed with a brain scan to see how they handle emotional stress

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If you have the resources, why not undergo a $3,500 test to prove your brain’s been impacted by cheating, loss, and other forms of emotional trauma? Khloé Kardashian did just that, aiming to prove she’s survived emotional trauma and to counter an online quiz she took that said she lacks resilience. 

In the latest episode of Hulu’s The Kardashians, Khloé underwent a single-photon emission computed tomography, or SPECT scan, after being convinced by sister Kendall Jenner who says it showed her she “100%” has anxiety. The scan is a nuclear imaging tool that uses a gamma camera to examine the brain’s activity, producing a 3D image for a doctor to use to see which areas of the brain are most active. X-rays are helpful to examine the body’s anatomy but have difficulty capturing soft tissue the way a nuclear scan does, which is more helpful at looking at organ function, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. 

Khloé met with Dr. Daniel Amen, a psychiatrist and author of You, Happier: The 7 Neuroscience Secrets of Feeling Good Based on Your Brain Type. He explained that the SPECT scan can show where her brain’s blood is flowing, and measures brain activity. 

“It looks at how your brain works,” he explains to Khloé. Other celebrities, including Bella Hadid, have also take the scan with Amen.

When looking at the imaging results of the “emotional brain” scan, Amen explains how you can assess which parts of the brain are overactive or “way too busy” based on blood flow, a way to show the impact of anxiety. 

“You worry, and you can be anxious, and you’ve had trauma,” says Amen, as he describes Khloé’s scan and shows a “diamond” on the screen. “This often will go with emotional trauma.” 

Amen showed Khloé her physical or outer brain image, which was “hurt.” Khloé opened up on the show about being in a car crash when she was 16, something the physical image of the brain scan picked up on. The other image Amen showed was the emotional brain scan. She also noted her dad passing away when she was 19, and her emotional stress dealing with a past partner who struggled with drug abuse, as well as finding out she was being cheated on while she was pregnant. A lot of this traumatic experience she learned about from social media, she says.

“It surprises me that a scan is able to pick up on things that are emotional and not just physical,” Khloé says, reflecting on her experience, on the show. This type of scan is used to identify other mental disorders like ADHD and dementia. 

A study found that traumatic events have an impact on the brain, specifically in the amygdala, which regulates emotions; the hippocampus, which regulates memory; and the prefrontal cortex, which plays a role in decision making. For those with anxiety, for example, brain scans can show overactivity in the amygdala or emotional processing area, although they aren’t the sole way of identifying mental health issues.  

Khloé’s brain scan shows she may have been affected by cheating or loss, but emotional trauma doesn’t have to be permanent. Neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to change and create new thought patterns, is a hopeful note that the brain’s emotional trauma is not permanent. 

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