Gamma rays are the most energetic photons in the electromagnetic spectrum. They are very excited particles of light. Gamma rays have several unique properties that humans use every day. For example, specific elements give off a specific radioactive signature when gamma rays hit them from space. Knowing these signatures, NASA can scan the surface of a planet and know exactly what elements are present.
And if someone were to inject you with gamma-emitting isotopes, they would probably mix it with a specific molecule first. That molecule would flow through your blood, isotope on board, until it reached the kind of tissue for which it has a special affinity. Then it would latch on and stay put. And all the while that isotope would give off gamma radiation. A microscopic beacon of invisible light.
Now you need something to see the gamma rays. A SPECT machine is an excellent choice. Equipped with gamma cameras, SPECT machines take many pictures from various angles. But instead of creating a magazine spread, they take pictures of gamma emissions through “layers”. A computer later combines these 2D layers into a 3D image.
SPECT is interesting in brain imaging because it shows blood flow – therefore related brain function – throughout brain tissue.
Lyme disease is a mimic. No two people have identical symptoms. There are, however, some commonalities. Many of them revolve around the brain, such as cognitive impairment and mood change. Often the struggle of living with Lyme is dealing with disbelief and ridicule more than symptoms. Trying to deal with illness and uncertainty around the “reality” of one’s own mental state is a state of constant stress. Many Lyme patients are told they are “making it up” since all their testing is normal.
Thanks to gamma radiation there is solid proof that Lyme disease has a profound effect on the brain.
A five year study of over 180 people with Lyme disease (clinical or positive blood test) found that three quarters of them “had discernible abnormalities on their initial scans”. There was no difference between those with and without positive blood tests, nor based on sex or age.
Which parts of the brain showed as abnormal? That’s where it gets interesting: Temporal lobe: 46%. This is how we process all those vibrations in the air through our ear and into meaningful sound, and allows us to comprehend language. It also processes complex visuals, like faces, and encodes long-term memories that we can later recall at will.
Which parts of the brain showed as abnormal? That’s where it gets interesting: Temporal lobe: 46%. This is how we process all those vibrations in the air through our ear and into meaningful sound, and allows us to comprehend language. It also processes complex visuals, like faces, and encodes long-term memories that we can later recall at will. Frontal lobe: 40%. This part of the brain controls impulse control, judgment (good versus bad, better versus best, etc.), and helps retain long-term memories formed by emotion. In short, it allows us to guess future consequences based on current actions.
Parietal lobe: 33%. This processes sensory input from touch and taste. That seems like a short list,but, consider that this is how you know if something is written on your hand without even looking. Or if your tea is too hot. Or when another’s lips are on yours.
There were also several combinations of areas affected, the most common of which was temporal and frontal lobes (27%).
Further, only 14% of the patients who had both MRI and SPECT showed abnormalities in their MRI. That means 86% of those patients’ brains looked completely normally on an MRI. The study notes, “there seemed to be no correlation between the severity of the SPECT scan results and the presence or absence of abnormalities in the MR images.”
The study tried several drugs alone and in combinations. 70% of patients who received treatment showed some improvement or even zero abnormalities. The study notes, “reversal of the abnormalities seems to require a number of months.” In one example of success, the before and after images were 14 months apart. That’s right. They did not find that the standard recommended treatment was sufficient.
Another point worth mentioning is that the degree of abnormality did depend on how long a patient had Lyme disease. Those less than a year in “were less likely to have abnormalities than those with symptoms for greater than two years”. Those with Lyme for over five years had a marked increase in the severity of SPECT abnormality. SPECT scans are therefore an effective tool to identify the effect that Lyme Disease and treatments has on a patient. Basic antibiotic treatment improved the lives of seven in ten patients. Imagine what a naturopathic approach can do.