There Are 5 Different Brain Types: Here's What Your Type Says About You

Clinical neuroscientist psychiatrist By Daniel Amen, M.D.
Clinical neuroscientist psychiatrist
Daniel Amen, MD, is a clinical neuroscientist psychiatrist, physician, professor and 10-time New York Times bestselling author. He is a double board-certified child and adult psychiatrist and founder of Amen Clinics, Inc.

Image by Jamie Grill Atlas / Stocksy

Have you ever wondered why you're such a worry wort? Or why you're so emotional? Has anyone ever told you that it's all in your head? Well, they're right, sort of. It's actually all in your brain. Based on the world's largest database of brain scans related to behavior, we now know that the way you think, act, and interact with others depends on the way your brain functions.

What's your brain type?

After studying more than 150,000 brain SPECT scans at Amen Clinics, it's clear that not all brains are the same. SPECT is a brain-imaging tool that measures blood flow and activity and shows areas of the brain with healthy activity, too much activity, or not enough activity.

In our brain-imaging work, we began by looking for patterns that could help us diagnose and treat mental health conditions, such as ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety. But as we studied more and more scans, we also realized that certain brain patterns corresponded to personality types.

Based on our research, we have identified five primary brain types that influence who you are, how you behave, and how you relate to others. It's also why giving everyone with anxiety, depression, or any other mental health issue a one-size-fits-all treatment plan will never work. Finding the right diet, the best supplements, and the most effective exercise for your needs depends on your brain type.

I dig into these brain types more in my new book Change Your Brain, Change Your Grades, but here's a quick overview.

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Type 1: The balanced brain

The balanced brain shows full, even, symmetrical blood flow in most areas.

Personality type: This is one of the most common brain types. If you have Brain Type 1, you're likely to be focused, flexible, and emotionally stable. You're one of those people who gets things done on time, shows up on time, follows through on promises, and copes well with life's ups and downs. In general, you aren't much of a risk taker and you prefer to follow the rules.

Career path: Type 1 individuals tend to be good employees, managers, and project coordinators in just about any industry.

Learning style: Because you're focused and organized, you usually do well in school or on-the-job training.

Relationships: You tend to play well with others and have drama-free relationships.

Potential problems: If you eat a junk-food diet, drink too much, become a couch potato, and spend hours on social media, you can set yourself up for mental health problems.

Support your balanced brain with a healthy diet, regular exercise, and take multivitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D.

Type 2: The spontaneous brain

This type typically has lower activity in the front part of the brain in an area called the prefrontal cortex (PFC).

Personality type: With this brain type, you love trying new things, have a wide range of interests, and would rather do things on the spur of the moment than have a set schedule. You think outside the box, don't believe that rules apply to you, and are typically late for appointments. Organization isn't your strong point, and you're such a risk taker that your behavior might get you into trouble.

Career path: Having the spontaneous brain type is very common among entrepreneurs, entertainers, politicians, and real estate agents.

Learning style: This type is easily distracted and struggles with organization, so even though you may be really smart, it can be hard for you to perform up to your potential.

Relationships: Because you like excitement in your life, you may have a tendency to create drama in your relationships.

Potential problems: You may engage in risky behavior, such as drinking too much, taking drugs, or having extramarital affairs. This type is vulnerable to ADHD, depression, and addiction.

Engage in lifestyle strategies that boost activity in the PFC, including eating a higher-protein diet; taking supplements, such as green tea, rhodiola, and ginseng; and doing cardio exercise.

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Type 3: The persistent brain

People with this brain type often have increased activity in the front part of the brain in an area called the anterior cingulate gyrus (ACG).

Personality type: You like to get things done. You tend to be strong-willed, refuse to take no for an answer, and think it's your way or the highway. You thrive when you can follow a routine but can get bent out of shape when plans change suddenly and have trouble going with the flow. You may be a worrier who has trouble letting go of past hurts, and you tend to be argumentative.

Career path: The persistent brain type is common among chief operating officers, project managers, and web engineers.

Learning style: You perform best when you have options, so you may want to stick to classes and training that gives you some leeway in how you learn material. 

Relationships: You can be stubborn and tend to remember every fight you and your partner ever had.

Potential problems: When the brain's ACG is overactive, it means you can get stuck on negative thoughts, which can be associated with anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

To calm an overactive ACG, boost serotonin in the brain with healthy carbs (such as sweet potatoes and hummus), salmon, turkey, eggs, nuts, and seeds; supplements like 5-HTP and saffron; and burst training.

Type 4: The sensitive brain

This type often has increased activity in the limbic system, the emotional centers of the brain.

Personality type: Having the sensitive brain type means you tend to have great empathy for your friends, family, fellow humans, and even furry animals. You can be deeply moved by music, movies, and other art forms. Violent films, hateful social media posts, and the nightly news may be too much for you to handle, so you tend to shy away from them. Many people with this brain type struggle with moods, can feel overwhelmed, and are likely to have lots of automatic negative thoughts (ANTs).

Career path: The sensitive brain type is common among therapists, health care professionals, and social workers, as well as creative types.

Learning style: Because noisy places can be overwhelming for you, search out places to study that are quiet, and make sure you have earplugs. Seek out counselors, mentors, or professors who are supportive.

Relationships: You're so tuned in to others that it's easy for you to tell when your partner needs a hug or needs some space. Because you're so sensitive to external stimuli, you sometimes need alone time to recharge, which your significant other may take personally.

Potential problems: Being highly sensitive can make you more vulnerable to depression, addiction, and cyclic mood disorders like bipolar disorder.

Calm the emotional centers of the brain with healthy fats, such as avocado, almonds, and salmon; take omega-3 fatty acids, s-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), and vitamin D; and do physical activities like dancing or team sports.

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Type 5: The cautious brain

Brain patterns: Heightened activity in the anxiety centers of the brain—such as the basal ganglia, insular cortex, or amygdala—are seen in this type. This is often linked to low levels of the neurotransmitter GABA.

Personality type: If you have the cautious brain type, you're likely to feel anxious, which typically makes you more prepared. People with this type tend to have such busy minds that it's hard to relax. You may have a tendency to expect the worst and have a fear of failure that prevents you from going for your dreams.

Career path: You like security and tend to have an analytical mind, so you may gravitate toward jobs in accounting, research, or data mining.

Learning style: You're likely to go the extra mile to study class material, but despite being well-prepared, test-day jitters may cause you to underachieve on exams.

Relationships: You may have a fear of rejection and seek constant reassurance from your partner, which can come off as being needy or clingy.

Potential problems: People with this brain type are more vulnerable to anxiety and addictions.

Soothe the brain's anxiety centers by avoiding caffeine, booze, and sugary sweets; supplement your diet with GABA, magnesium, and B6; and try calming activities like yoga.

To learn even more about your brain type, take a Brain Health Assessment.

Ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE web class with nutrition expert Kelly LeVeque.

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