Animals with implanted electrodes in their brains have been made to perform a variety of responses with predictable reliability as if they were electronic toys under human control.
- Dr José M. R Delgado
Yale University School of Medicine
The once-human being thus
controlled would be the cheapest of machines to create and operate.
In the field of brain
physiology, I think it [ESB] is the most exiting single discovery....I
am almost frightened to say what I think might come of this....
Man is possessed by an almost
overwhelming desire - some insist that it is actually an instinct
- to explore, to pit himself against the unknown...
Exploratory progress in this realm has been such to date that Dr Carl R. Rogers, professor of psychology at the university of Wisconsin, has been moved to state that 'we have in the making ... a science of enormous potential importance, an instrumentality whose social power will make atomic energy seem feeble by comparison'. Dr B. F. Skinner takes a similar view: 'Science,' he says, 'is steadily increasing our power to influence, change, mould - in a word, control - human behaviour.' So does Dr Robert S. Morison of the Rockefeller Foundation: 'Knowledge of human behaviour,' he observes, 'is becoming organised and accumulative ... It is becoming scientific....It is not to early to prepare ourselves for the day when there will be a behavioural science which will make it possible the control of human behaviour with a high degree of precision.'
That day, in fact, appears to be dawning. What man will make of it remains to be seen. This frontier, more than any other, has a potential for exploitation by the self-serving and the shortsighted. If wiselyp 147:
managed, however, it can provide the greatest return of all, something that is often yearned for but seldom attained: peace of mind, possibly even mind leached of its destructive urges.
Electronic Stimulation of the Brain
Thought the 'battle for men's minds' is being waged on several fronts, attention here is focused on the approach that promises the most dramatic results: electronic stimulation of the brain. ESB, as it is called, provides a means of 'mapping' the mind, of locating within the brain the specific sites at which various categories of emotion, feeling, action and thought originate. More than this, ESB provides a means of exerting some control over those feelings and actions. It can even help reactivate parts of the brain that have ceased functioning because of disease or trauma, induce immense pleasure, override 'intractable' pain and, for a finite period, enable one to releive one's past, even the most remote, 'unremembered' past.
Recent rapid development in ESB technique follows-upon what was rather a slow start. Direct electrical stimulation of the brain, in fact, dates back nearly two centuries to the experiments of Volta, Galvani, du Bois-Reymond and others, who discovered that the brain is more susceptible to electronics than to obscure chemical forces ('animal spirits', they were called) that were in vogue up to that time. During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, battlefield brain surgeons used crude electronic probes that would curl the hair of today's neurologists in an attempt to locate damaged brain tissue. They would simply stick wires into the brain, apply the electrical voltage and wait for some response, a twitch here, a kick there, an erection, excessive salivation, etc.; if no response was forthcoming, the surgeon would assume brain damage in the area under stimulation. Then he would generally take scalpel in hand and excise the affected tissue - usually to rather horrible effect.
This medical 'technology' lay mercifully dormant for decades after the war - until Dr Walter R. Hess, a brilliant Swiss neuro-physiologist, devised the modern technique of electrode implantation in 1932, demonstrating in the process that nearly all of man's functions and emotions can be influenced by electrical stimulation of specific cerebral areas. 'For the first time,' observes Dr José M. R. Delgado, one of the foremost practioners of ESB research, 'it was revealed that psychological'p 148:
manifestations like rage do not depend exclusively on sensory inputs and physiological stimulati, but can be induced by electrical currents applied directly to the brain. Although these findings did not produce a significant impact on philosophical thinking, in retrospect they may be considered as important as the nineteenth century demonstration that the contraction of a frog muscle did not depend on circulating spirits and could be controlled by physical instrumentation.'
Epoch-making as Hess' work was, it wasn't until nearly twenty years later that he received the Nobel Prize for his discoveries. And it is only now that ESB is coming into its own as a routine procedure in animal studies, on a much smaller scale as yet, as a clinical tool for treatment of human disorders. As a research tool alone, it is invaluable, for it makes possible, for the first time, physiological exploration of the conscious mind.
Presenting the annual James Arthur lecture on 'The Evolution of the Human Brain' in 1965, Dr Delgado, a professor of physiology at the Yale University School of Medicine, cautioned that ESB is not a panacea for all of man's woes, 'but I do beleive', he declared, 'that an understanding of the biological bases of social and antisocial behaviour and of mental activities, which for the first time in history can now be explored in the conscious brain, may be of decisive importance in the search for intelligent solutions to some of our present anxieties, frustrations and conflicts. Also, it is essential to introduce a balance into the future development of the human brain, and I think that we now have the means to investigate and influence our own intellect.'
Wiring the Brain
To understand fully the impact ESB may have in the very near future, it is important first to understand something of the actual technique of implanting electrodes in the brain. Thousands of laboratory animals, including cats, rats, dogs, dolphins, bulls and even crickets, have been wired, some with more than one hundred electrodes. Dozens of humans, most of them suffering from serious diseases or mental disorders, have been similarly wired - some with scores of electrodes and for periods in excess of a year. To date, electrodes have been left intact in lab animals for more tahn five years without any visible ill effects.
The procedure for implanting electrodes in humans (basically the same as for animals) goes like this: air or radiopaque material isp 149:
injected into the intracerebral spaces inside the skull so that the various parts of the brain can be visualised by means of X-rays. A metallic skullcap - called a stereotaxic machine - is attached to the head with three or four little spikes that penetrate the scalp. Then X-rays are taken from various angles. ESB experiments during recent years have provided increasingly detailed maps of the brain, thus making it possible to pinpoint the exact areas they wish to stimulate. They make geometrical calculations, using the X-rays and the reference-point grids on the stereotaxic apparatus, to get three-dimensional co- ordinates for positioning of electrodes.
When the desired target is fixed, the subject is further anaesthetised and small burr holes are drilled into his skull at the appropriate points. Micromanipulators on the stereotaxic machine are used to guide the hair-like stainless steel electrodes through the holes, sinking them to the desired depth in the brain. Some of these electrodes are only a millionth of an inch in diameter - small enough to be placed inside an individual nerve cell. Even the larger electrodes, however, leave the brain function unimpaired and are entirely painless because the brain itself has no sense of 'feel'. Once the electrodes are in place, their exposed ends are attached to small terminal sockets that are cemented to the scalp. Electrical current, measured in milliamps in most cases and discharged at the tips of the electrodes, providing the desired stimulation of the brain.
Originally, the electrical wires feeding into the sockets were connected to bulky consoles that were immobile for all practical purposes. This had obvious disadvantages since it didn't permit spontaneous movement and, of course, restricted the subject to a small area. Deranged individuals and rambunctious lab animals, moreover, often tried to rip the electrodes out of their skulls with less than felicitous results. To circumvent these serious problems and achieve a more natural man-machine symbiosis, technicians developed stimulators packaged in collars, small backpacks and little boxes that fit securely on the crown of the head. These contain batteries, transistors and timing devices to regulate and control the stimulation. They also serve as receivers, tuned to pick up radio signals from remote operators who can regulate the tempo and intensity of stimulation in whatever way they desire at any given moment.
Researchers at the Yerkes Primate Centre in Atlanta have developedp 150:
a head unit that is even equipped with a solar cell so that free-swinging monkeys need never come in for a recharge. Emphasis is very much on miniaturisation, and Yale's Dr Delgado and his colleagues have developed portable instrumants tiny enough to fit inside the head bandages of their human patients. Some of them conceal their electronic headgear under wigs and hats. Very soon researchers hope to have terminal devices that can be wholly implanted under the scalp. But whatever the gear, the result is much the same. When current is discharged into the brain, the patient reacts. He may be induced to sleep or to work happily. In many cases the patient forgets that he is being artificially stimulated. At any rate he never feels that he is doing something against his own will. Stimulated to make a specific motor action, he 'feels' that he himself created the stimulation.
Government by 'Electroligarchy'
The incredible power that one can exert over an individual's actions and emotions with ESB has given rise to some alarm. What works for lower animals in this realm can also be made to work for man. Most scientists assume, of course, that this technology will remain in (their) benign hands, ushering in anew era of 'electronic nirvana'. But if the technology should fall into decidedly unscrupulous hands (and this must certainly be considered a possibility), then a strange and fearful world would result.
An electrical engineer named Curtiss R. Schafer alluded to this very possibility in a paper he presented before the National Electronics Conference in Chicago some years ago. Half in jest, he proposed that computer-controlled electrodes be implanted in the brains of babies a few months after birth, robotising them for life. 'The once human being thus controlled would be the cheapest of machines to create and operate,' he pointed out. 'The cost of building even a simple robot, like the Westinghous mechanical man, is probably ten times that of bairing and raising a child to the age of sixteen. Other scientists have admitted the possibility that governments could try to control citizen behaviour by techniques of ESB.
The vision of a society controlled by such a government is not pleasant to contemplate - yet it is certainly as 'realistic' as that envisioned by Aldous Huxley in his famous novel Brave New World, in'p 151:
which the masses were bio-chemically stratified via the sort of genetic engineering that is already becoming possible in laboratories around the world. An electronically contrived Brave New World, however, might actually be easier to achieve. The stratification here, of course, would be somewhat different, as the following scenario will demonstrate:
To begin with, let us imagine a conspiracy participated in by a small group of powerful men who seek to 'optimise' society. Noting the fantastic potential of ESB, they envision themselves at the top of an electronically sustained socio-structure that might be called the Electro-hierarchy. The conspirators, let us say, are leading figures in the military-industrial complex who want to run the society in the same way that they run their factories and armies. But now, instead of having to worry about personnel incentive programmes, waste, time-consuming interoffice bickering, in-house pilfering and philandering, insubordination, the costly ritual of hiring and firing and so on, they need only punch buttons and transmit the appropriate signals to achieve every general's, manager's, president's, premier's dream of the efficient society. These Electrooligarchs might comprise, say, forty or fifty individuals whose brains would remain entirely untouched. On their orders, however, everyone else would have varying numbers of electrodes implanted in his or her skull.
The Electrons, the second rank in such a society, might comprise 10 per cent of the population with fifty implanted electrodes each. Remotely programmed and controled by the Electroligarchy, they would exhibit unswerving allegiance to their 'masters'. The Electrons, however, would be society's most creative components. The Electroligarchy would be clever enough, in a corporate way, to give Electrons their heads - at least to the extent that they could still come up with innovations and discoveries with which to enrich society, such as it would be. The Electrons would be drawn from the society's reserve of scientists, economistst, scholars, poets and other 'thinkers'. They would not be so controlled that they could no longer experience unhappiness or some of the other emotions that often goad individuals on to do creative things. But their potential for hostility and rebellion would be considerably attenuated. And of course, like all the members of the Electroligharchy, they would be programmed to 'forget' that they had been partially robotised.
Positrons might occupy the next rung down the ladder, possibly comprisingp 152:
30 per cent of the population. Each would possess some two hundred embedded electrodes. These individuals would make up the white-collar support contingent. The positrons would help put the theories, plans and projects of the Electrons into practice. They would be less imaginative and less intelligent than the Electrons, hence more closely controlled and regimented. They would be characterised by dedication, driven by the desire to implement the goals set by the Electrons. Emotionally, they would be wholly positive thinkers, enthusiastic components of the machine; the more they accomplished, the more pleasure they would receive electronically. They would possess none of the Electrons' negativism, but they would maintain minimal personalities, if only to make them more palatable to the Electrons with whom they would have to make frequent contact.
At the lowest level might come the Neutrons, 60 per cent of the population with five hundred electrodes each. These would be the blue-collar people, the factory workers, the soldiers, secretaries, bus drivers, all those engaged in repetitive, often menial tasks. They would be cheaper and more reliable than automatic equipment and mechanical robots. They would, in fact, be completely robotised so that they could dig ditches all day and love every minute of it, if need be.
Even assuming that a centralised computer of sufficient complexity and sophistication to effect such a system is possible, implementation would still remain a major obstacle. It would almost certainly be a mistake, however, to assume automatically that it would be impossible to implant electrodes in everyone's brain. It might be relatively easy provided people could be persuaded to undergo implantation voluntarily. In a world rapidly growing accustomed to artificial external and internal prostheses, spare-part surgery and organ transplants, the idea of implanting metal wires in the brain is bound to become less and less 'foreign' and repugnant. And to push the campaign along, our Electrocrats might offer a number of incentives, perhaps tax deductions or even cash 'rewards'. Possibly the implant programme could be ballyhooed into a matter of 'national security', so that refusal to participate would call one's patriotism into question. Instantaneous communications and electronically augmented 'will to resist the enemy' could be some of the selling points.
More likely, however, is the possibility that people will opt for the implants in order to 'cash in' on a new form of electronic entertainment.p 153:
As we shall see later in this chapter, the so-called 'pleasure centres' of the brain can be wired in such a way that one can create, with the mere push of a button, an almost orgasmic state of euphoria or cause the individual to hallucinate as vividly as if on LSD. With computer programming it may be possible to create within the mind synthetic experiences of almost any description. In addition, it may prove possible to transmit electronically coded information directly into the brain via the implanted electrodes, creating a radical new approach to education.
Dorman D. Israel, as Fellow of the Institute of Radio Engineers, for example, predicts that brain implants will be much sought after around the turn of the century to implement new means of communication (direct electronic sthought transference) and enhance creative capabilities. Writing in the Proceedings of the IRE as if from the perspective of the year 2012, Dr Israel notes that by bthe year 2000 people will be able to transmit their thoughts over substantial distances 'but always by appointment - a most fortunate limitation. By 2012, he goes on, things will have advanced to the point that 'newborn infants can be operated upon and the latest submicroelectronic equipment installed in the brain and at certain critical points in the spinal column so that they are almost certainly assured not only of the benefits of full non-radio communicative powers but also there is reason to beleive that their scientific creative ability will be enhanced. Logically enough, this operation must be performed within two weeks of birth because if the infant is only slightly exposed to contact with its family who still have not completed their "unlearning"' and readjustment (to the new technology), he might never become a good subject for the modern system of communication.'
Sizeable segments of society may already have undergone electrode implantation by the time the 'takeover' plot is first hatched. By simply commandeering the by then existing computer-co-ordinated system, the Electrocrats would find that most of their work had already been done for them. When the individual dials into the central computer from his own home requesting, say, pleasurable experience number 547Z, he may then receive instead a carefully contrived series of electronic impulses that instil in him an unswerving loyalty to his unseen masters. Or possibly the stimulation he receives might simply obliterate his will to resist a physical takeover or fill him with a completely debilitatingp 154:
fear of authority. That dramatic behavoural control is possible with ESB and has, in fact, been demonstrated in several laboratories as we shall see.
Like nuclear energy, ESB possesses a fantastic potential for good as well as evil. Having conceded the substantial potential for abuse of this new technology, let us proceed to look at the other, more hopeful side of the coin. In the course of ESB experimentation, scientists have discovered that all of the brain's functions - the autonomic, the somatic and the psychic - are susceptible to electronic control. As Dr Delgado puts it, in 'exploring intracerebral physiology, we are reaching not only the soma but also for the psyche itself'.
Consider the influence that can now be exerted over the autonomic system which resides largely in the hypothalamus, that deep, dark elemental area of the brain that controls our most basic and primitive needs. It helps regulate blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, hunger, sleep, sex and many other things. Appropriately placed electrodes can alter all of these functions. Cats that have just eaten a large meal can be stimulated to gorge themselves even further, completely ignoring their already distended stomachs. Others, literally starving, can be electronically induced to ignore food placed directly under their noses. The diameter of their pupils can be electrically controlled as if they were the diaphragms of cameras. The doctors can willfully alter the animals' blood pressure and heart rate with precision.
Scientists see many benefits accruing from this sort of control over basic functions. They can, to begin with, get a better understanding of how these functions work and what can go wrong with them, thus arriving at more effective cures for diseases of metabolism, the heart, circulation and so on. Something called 'electrosleep', for example, has come to rescue of numerous human insomniacs, though to date most clinical work has been with external electrodes attached to the scalp. In lab work, however, internal electrodes have been used on animals with encouraging results.
At the Yerkes Primate Center in Atlanta, Dr Adrian Perachio, a neurophysiologist, is conducting a series of ESB experiments for NASA which may result in abetter understanding of what happens to sleep patterns during space travel. Variations in acceleration and gravityp 155:
seem to affect and perhaps inhibit one critical phase of sleep known as the rapid-eye-movement (REM) phase, during which most of our dreams occur. Humans and lab animals deprived of REM sleep exhibit bizarre and often psychotic behaviour; this indicates to some scientists that REM is as essential to life as food and water. Some researchers now claim to be able to stimulate REM sleep at will. This suggests that we may one day be able to cut down substantially on our total sleep time. Why? Because many beleive that other sleep phases are merely incidental to the critical REM stage (which constitutes only 24 per cent of healthy sleep time). Thus, if REM could be artificially induced on a routine basis, perhaps through self-stimulation of implanted electrodes at the desired time, one might be able to reduce the period of slumber by 50 to 75 per cent.
On the other hand, it might be useful to prolong sleep electronically too. If at the same time heart rate, body temperature and other life functions were slowed down by the proper stimulation of the hypothalamus and other cerebral structures, a state of suspended animation might result, the likes of which could come in handy on extended spase journeys. This sort of 'hibernation', at any rate, now appears far more feasible than that sort invisioned by cryogenic (deep-freezing) suspension.
Somatic functions have yielded even more dramatically than the autonomic to ESB. These are th motor functions, movements of the body and its extremities, which can be controlled by stimulating various parts of the cerebral cortex. In Dr Delgado's experiments animals were induced to 'move the legs, raise or lower the body, open or close the mouth, walk or lie still, or tirn around'. He found that the animals took all of this very much in stride, seemingly unaware of the outside interference. Cats stimulated in such a way that they would suddenly have to raise a hind leg would go right on purring. Nor would they stumble or fall. 'However', Dr Delgado observes, 'if we tried to prevent the evoced effect by holding the hind leg with our hands, the cat stopped purring, struggled to get free, and shook its leg,' indicating that the stimulatory command is a powerful one.
A number of researchers are working to put this sort of motor control to practical effect. Perhaps the most impressive results to date havep 156:
been achieved by Dr Lawrence R. Pinneo and his associates at the Stanford Research Institute. Dr Pinneo is using ESB as an 'electrphrosthetic' device which he hopes will help paralyses stroke victims move again. Work is still confined to lab animals but its applicability to humans is apparent. The best thing about electroprosthesis is that it does not require any sort of artificial limb or external attachment. Instead, parts of the brain not damaged by the stroke are stimulated to produce purposeful movements. Computers are used to control the sequence of stimulatory events emanating from as many as sixty electrodes, permitting the animal to move about in a co-ordinated and almost natural fashion. 'With a little training,' Dr Pinneo points out, 'the animal can be given a set of switches that tell the computer what set of movements to produce; thus he can enter into control of his own behaviour.'
For those interested in the specifics of the experimental electroprosthetic technique, Dr Pinneo and his colleagues (Dr J.N. Kaplan and E.A Elpel of the Stanford Research Institute, and P.C. Reynolds and J. H. Glick of the Stanford University School of Medicine) have prepared a paper entitled 'Experimental Brain Prostheses: Methods and Possibilities'. In it, they write:
This technique involves permanently attaching an electrode guidance platform to the paralysed monkey's skull while the monkey is anaesthetised an in a stereotaxic instrument. The platform is made of dental acrylic and contains an array of holes through which electrodes can be inserted into the brain with stereotaxic accuracy. It is aligned above the monkey's head with the stereotaxic apparatus and is attached to the skull with screws and acrylic dental plastic. The skin below the platform is removed so that electrodes can be inserted directly through the skull without piercing the skin first.
..After application of alocal anaesthetic, a small hole is drilled through the skull using a hole in the platform as a guide. The hole in the skull is made on the side contalateral to the cortical lesion, i.e., on the same side as the paralysed limb, because most limb movements evoked by stimulation in the brain stem occur on the same side as the stimulation. An electrode is lowered into the brain in 1-mm steps throught the hole in the skull. Motor responses to stimulation are initially tested at each step as the electrode is lowered.p 157:
After each location is found that produces a distinct elementary motor response, electrodes are permanently fixed by bending the electrode on top of the platform and attaching it to the platform with acrylic. The electrode is then connected to an Amphenol plug that is housed in a box made of acrylic. The box is attached to the guidance platform with screws and is removed from the platform only when electrodes are inserted into the brain. In Bruno (one of the lab monkeys) thirteen locations were founsd that upon stimulation produced movement in his paralysed right arm. Movements in this limb included rotation of the wrist, arm turning in towards the body from the shoulder, arm straight out from the body, rotation of forearm out from the body at the elbow, flexion of the thumb and several other elementary movenments.- -end of quotation from Pinneo et all
The Stanford team uses a LINC-8 digital computer to programme and operate the implanted electrodes. The total bio-cybernetic system consists of (1) a ten- channel programmable brain stimulator (more channels are possible for future expansion to accommodate any number of electrodes);(2)the LINC-8 computer with appropriate interfacing equipment; (3) the software programmes controling the system; and (4) the animal itself.
The information needed to produce agiven set of movements is encoded, in each case, in a table format called TIMETABLE. Fed into the computer, TIMETABLE specifies the pattern of stimulatory events needed to produce the desired motions. The TIMETABLE repertoire can be altered simply by addressing the computer via teletype. The system also features a magnetic tape input so that TIMETABLE configurations, once proved effective in evoking a specific movement, can be stored for future use and instantaneous retrieval. This is what makes it possible to put together a chain of movements that closely approximates natural, co-ordinated bodily motion. Complex as the whole system sounds, it has been simplified to the point that, as noted, the monkey can himself operate a small set of switches. With proper training this enables him to control his own movwmwnt. He learns, for example, that if he wants to raise his right arm he is to push one switch, if he wants to move rapidly forward he is to push another switch, and so on.
Dr Pinneo expects to implant as many as 240 electrodes in the brain stem, making possible even more sophisticated cyberntic organisms. He points out, however, that with this much hardware in the brainp 158:
there is bound to be some significant damage to brain structure. Hence he is now looking for means of achieving deep brain stimulation without implanted electrodes, a means that would, in addition, permit stimulation of deep brain sites without simultaneous stimulation of intervening brain tissue. 'In order to stimulate at one point, and one point only and to produce no damage to intervening tissue,' he notes, 'it is evident that the intensity of the penetrating energy must be below that necessary for tissue stimulation at every point except the desired focus of stimulation. This obviously means that two or more sources of energy must be used where each can be focused to a point, and where the point of focus is the site of stimulation. It also means that at the point of focus, the two or more beams of energy must be able to add, in phase, in order to provide a total intensity sufficient to stimulate the tissue at that point.' A single energy source sufficient to stimulate the target site, in other words, is no good because it would also be sufficient to stimulate all intervening sites. External stimulators of the future may combine a variety of energy forms, including electric current, electromagnetic radiation (especially at microwave or higher frequencies), ultrasonics and laser beams.
Dr Pinneo and others, including Dr Wendell J. S Krieg, a Northwestern University anatomist, are hopeful that similar electroprosthetic programmes can be established for the blind. Though actual experimentation has only begun, Dr Krieg hopes to help the blind see through the use of light-sensitive photoelectric cells wired directly to the brain.
The miniaturised cells, he says, could be worn on the patient's head, perhaps even incorporated into hats. Electrodes feeding out of the cells would be permanently implanted in ythe portion of the brain that interprets vision. As a modest start, Dr Krieg proposes a system capable of detecting and transmitting the shapes of letters so that the blind person would perceive a continuous series of letters and words - in the same manner that the normal person reads the news that is flashed in lights at Times Square. From here, he says, more complex systems could be devised so that pictures resembling animated cartoons could be viewed. Eventually the system could be refined to the point where it would be possible forp 159:
the subject to perceive variations in light, detect the presence of doors, windows, approachin objects and so on.
'He would be enabled to move rapidly and safely and to throw away the white cane, which is little more than a tradition or a warning,' says Dr Krieg. He adds that such systems are feasible since the process for stimulating the visual portion of the cortex is well known. He obseves that electrode implants can also be useful in overcoming hearing losses and, like Dr Pinneo, notes the possibilities for the use of ESB in restoring movement to paralysed or injured limbs. 'It is a comparably easy matter with a myograph to analyse the exact time sequences of all the muscles of the limbs while walking,' he says. 'By playing such a record on a stimulator connected to the proper muscles, each muscle could be made to contract at the right time and the result would be normal walking.'
Dr Pinneo and associayes have been at work now for more than ten years on an approach to visual prosthesis or 'electrovison'. So have a number of British researchers, notably G. S. Brindley and W. S. Lewin, who have actually begun working with the human. Brindley and Lewin, in one effort to overcome blindness, implanted eighty platinum electrodes into the brain of a fifty-two-year-old nurse suffering from glaucoma and retinal detachment. The patient was able to 'see' a small spot of light, and the British investigators beleive that proper programming of the stimulative events will enable the blind to avoid obstacles and possibly read print.
The Stanford team is trying for even better results: 'to reproduce normal vision by making the visual system act as it would physiologically with light stimulation of the retina'. Dr Pinneo and his group have now formulated a theory of 'brightness' vision and are making headway in their effort to replicate some forms of it electronically. As presently envisioned, the prosthesis system, once perfected, will be much like that for stroke. With computer control, Dr Pinneo says, 'we should be able to present a three-dimensional mosaic of stimulated points representing the entire visual field....For the present, we will only consider black and white representation.' Nobody is yet ruling out, however the possibility of eventually achieving artificial colour vision.
The cost and size of computers of sufficient complexity to control these electrprostheses are, at present, considerable. But Dr Pinneo points to the rapid progress in the miniaturisation of electronic componentry as a way around these difficulties. Thanks, in part, to thep 160:
space programme, he thinks we will ultimately have 'practical, relatively low cost, general purpose computers small enough to be worn or carried by a human being as part of his clothing'.
Intriguing as the electrosomatic devices are, it is the psychic and behavioural functions of the brain that are the most spectacularly controlled by ESB. This was demonstrated by Dr James Olds, who was the first to discover the so-called 'pleasure centres' of the brain while experimenting with rats at McGill University in Canada. The nature of the pleasure induced by stimulating these centres (located in a variety of areas) seems to transcend that associated with mere food, drink or sex. The stimulation seems to result in a sort of super-euphoria or hyper-ecstacy that causes the animals to forget mor jejeune pleasures.
Rats, in one experiment, were 'wired for pleasure' and then permitted to press the stimulating lever themselves. And press it they did - some at the astounding rate of 5000 times per hour! Some of these sybarites kept it up for twenty-four hours a day for periods of up to three weeks, taking only the briefest rat naps and scant seconds for food and drink. Conventional sexual intercourse was completely forsaken: 'Electrosex', it seems, combines the best of all possible pleasures.
It was discovered, in the course of stimulating human brains to control certain disorders, that man, too, is possessed of these pleasure centres. Dr Robert G Heath of Tulane University and Dr Delgado have both reported this phenomenon in man. Dr Delgado notes that some patients undergoing stimulation suddenly began discussing sexual matters. Several engaged in flirtatious activity that was out of character with their normal behaviour. Most surprising, several of the stimulated subjects expressed their desire to marry the doctor (regardless of whether they were of the opposite sex).
Though the subjects who experienced changes in the sexual ideation apparently experienced pleasurable feelings, they are not necessarily the same, intense feelings that kept the rats up day and night pressing the pleasure pedal. Other human subjects, however, have experienced similar pleasures. One man, equipped with one of Dr Heath's intracranial self-stimulation (ICSS) devices, for example, was particularly fond of pressing one of the buttons on the portable device. According to the reports on this patient, 'the feeling [that resulted] was good; itp 161:
was as if he were building up to a sexual orgasm'. Dr Heath observed that, 'regardless of his emotional state and the subject under discussion in the room', the pressing of this particular button 'was accompanied by the patient's introduction of a sexual subject, usually with a broad grin. When questioned about this, he would say. 'I don't know why that came to mind, - I just happened to think of it.'' 'The stimulation was a highly effective sexual aphrodisiac and the patient called upon it frequently.
Experiences of possibly even greater intensity have been reported by some of Dr Delgado's subjects. One woman, while undergoing stimulation of a pleasure centre in the brain, found it impossible to control herself. Her mood would abruptly switch from its usual serenity to one of euphoric giggling and laughing. She could only describe what it was that she was feeling as 'pleasant tingling sensations of the body'. Another patient, who was generally silent, would spontaneously exclaim such things as 'Hey! You can keep me here longer when you give me these,' when apparent pleasure centres were stimulated.
Just as self-involvement and inward-looking attitudes have been found to characterise many drug-induced 'highs', self-orientation seems to accompany the electrically induced pleasure state, at least initially. Some have noted, however, that this preoccupation with internal pleasures gives way with sustained stimulation and pleasurable feelings are expressed, instead, in an increasingly outward direction. Hence, Dr Delgado says, 'a shift from pleasurable thinking to friendliness and to sexual ideas has been observed in some cases'.
Electroanalgesia and Electroanaesthesia
Just as pleasure can be induced by ESB, so can pain be suppressed. 'Electroanalgesia', however, generally utilises the implantation of electrodes in the spinal column rather than in the brain itself. Dr C. Norman Shealy, chief of neurosurgery at the Gunderson Clinic in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and his colleagues have perfected electroanalgesic techniques to the point that they are now being applied to humans. Electronic painkillers are important because they give strong promise of being useful even in overwhelming the 'intractable' pain of incurable cancer and they free the patient´suffering any sort of intensive pain from the need to take massive doses of addicting narcotic analgesics.p 162:
Dr Shealy and his associates have discovered that stimulation of certain areas of the spinal cord can be highly effective in blocking intense pain. Since 'intractable' pain has been found to originate in diffuse structures, they selected those areas in the spinal cord where sensory nerve fibres are packed tightly together. This enables them to achieve maximum stimulation with a minimum amount of impalnted hardware.
The basic research that preceded clinical application of the electroanalgesic techniques involved cats. They were wired with electrodes and then subjected to varying degrees of pain. 'Normally,' Dr Shealy notes, 'pinching the tail or paw of the animals leads to meowing and vigorous withdrawal. Similarly, the cats flick an ear to avoid a hot soldering iron. However, when a pulsed DC current...is applied to a dorsal column electrode over the cervical cord, the animals allow prolonged pinching and intensive heat to the point of tissue damage with no apparent discomfort. They remain alert during the stimulus and sometimes will sit contentedly licking themselves during the dorsal column stimulation.'
Dr Shealy's first human patient was a seventy-year-old man suffering the severe pain of an inoperable lung cancer. After implantation of a single spinal electrode (with intermittent stimulation at .8 and 1.2 Volts), both incisional and original pain were innediately and completely extinguished. This was accomplished, moreover, without paralysing any part of the patient's body. The patient, Dr Shealy reports, 'maintained good movement of his legs, and vibration, position, touch and pinprick sensations were intact'. Pain recurred from time to time but could be immediately obliterated again simply by altering the frequency of the electronic stimulation. At no time did the patient require the accustomed narcotics.
The patient died two days after the stimulation was initiated - but for reasons entirely unassociated with the electrode implant. 'The initial results were so encouraging,' Dr Shealy reported with regard to this first case, 'that it seems reasonable that technical problems can overcome to make this a potentially practical method for releif of pain.'
Since the mid-sixties a number of others have benefited from electroanalgesia, some now for periods measured in years rather than days. Dr Shealy's second patient, for example, received relief for two years, even though she was suffering from extensive pelvic cancer. His third patient was a fifty-five year-old man who had been almost completely confined to bed for seven years when seen for treatment. This patientp 163:
suffering crippling pains in his legs due to infection of a spinal disc. Now he is able to walk and swim freely, thanks to a single tiny electrode implanted in his spinal cord. Whenever he feels a pain developing, he just pushes a button on a miniature transmitter he carries with him and current pulses into the nerve fibre via a tiny receiver implanted beneath the skin. The current 'jams' the nerve fibres in much the same way that radio frequencies can be 'jammed' to prevent transmission of a message. In this case, however, the 'message' that is being intercepted is pain.
Among others wired with self-stimulating units, like the one described above are individuals suffering from mulltiple sclerosis, severe muscle spasms and various carcinomas. Some use the stimulation constantly -so far without ill effect. As before, Dr Shealy reports, 'light touch remains intact as does vibration and position sensation. Patients are able to walk without difficulty. Bladder and bowel functions are not affected. Erections and ejaculations are possible during stimulation. The lack of any significant complications in the patients who have been treated... should now allow application of this treatment to large number of patients with chronic pain states.'
Electroanaesthesia though not so far advanced, may eventually prove to be of equal value. Hundreds ide every year from the toxic effects of chemical anaesthetic agents; many others suffer severe side effects from their toxic qualities. For most, of course, the chemical anaesthetics are neither fatal nor significantly damaging, but they are hard on the system and do take a long time to be eliminated from the body. Electric current, on the other hand, can produce unconsciousness almost instantaneously - without any hangover effect once the operation is complete.
Dr John Waycott, of the Imperial Chemical Research Laboratory in Great Britain, predicts that electroanaesthesia will be a routine hospital technique in the not too distant future. When that day comes a patient requiring general anaesthesia will be taken to the operating room fully conscious, wired there with external scalp electrodes and put to sleep with the mere flick of a switch. Once the operation is over, the patient is just as quickly revived, this time by simply turning off the current. Though electroanaesthesia has been used many times, a few complications remain to be smoothed out. For one thing, care has to be taken to avoid induction of muscle spasms, a consequence of too much current. In other instances, lungs sometimes cease functioning because of the stimulation and have to be artificially ventialted during the operation. Dr Waycott, however, is confident that these problems willp 164:
be overcome with more research into the use of various wave forms and currents and with more precise positioning and use of the external electrodes.
Other notable medical applications of ESB include suppression of epileptic seizures and narcolepsy. Dr Heath has equipped patients suffering from these maladies with 'wireless' self-stimulating transmitters with which they 'fire' at will their implanted brain electrodes. When they feel a seizure coming on or (in the case of narcolepsy) feel that they can no longer remain conscious they merely push buttons on their pocket transmitters and thus quickly correct the imbalance in question. Dr Pinneo is also at work on ESB approaches to problems of consciousness and thinks that even certain forms of mental retardation might be vulnerable to electronic therapy.
'Our approach to both of these deficits is based on the concept of the reticulars actvating system of the brain stem,' he explains, 'by which efficient normal behaviour is a function of the level of consciousness, or "arousal". By electrical stimulation of various areas of the brain, such as the nucleus reticularis, the inferior thalamus and the caudate nucleus, sleep-like states may be produced which in many ways mimic the level of alertness of mentally retarded children or animals. Conversely, electrical stimulation of the mesencephalic reticular formation produces arousal, even in an anaesthesised animal, while destruction of this area produces coma-like behaviour. To date, our experiments using programmed brain stimulation have been minimally successful in controlling level of arousal both upward and downward. It still remains to be seen whether this type of stimulation will affect learning rate in a retarded animal, or return to consciousness an animal suffering from experimental coma.'
Violence and affection, like plea´sure and pain, are proving susceptible to electronic manipulation. Indeed, even some of the most deep-seated patterns of social interaction can be radically altered with ESB.
Some inkling that ESB might have an 'electrosociological' value came as early as 1928 when the pioneering Dr Hess discovered that normally gentlse cats could be instantaneously driven to states of intense hostility by stimulating certain parts of their brains. The moment the stimulation, ceased, so díd the hostility. Then in the mid-1950s, Dr Delgadop 165:
demonstrated that one animal can be electrically driven to attack another animal - without ancillary provocation. In one of the first experiments in this area, Dr Delgado utilised two cats that had always been on friendly terms. The smaller cat was equipped with brain electrodes implanted in a cerebral structure known as 'tectal area'. When electrically stimulated, the smaller cat would immediately launch a fierce attack on its larger companion. Even when the large cat began to retaliate with powerful, slashing blows, the small cat persisted. Not until the stimulation was stopped would it withdraw. Normally a cat beaten in a battle will go to considerable lengths to avoid the victor. But here the small cat, even though it always lost, fearlessly launched new battles every time it was stimulated in the tectal area of the brain.Initially friendly relations were reestablished after each battle, but gradually the larger cat began to regard the other with constant hostility.
Subsequent experiments with cats proved that the sort of rage that is electronically provoked is not an all-pervasive, blind sort of hostility but, as DR Delgado puts it, 'selective and intelligently directed'. Where there were only two cats, the smaller would vent its rage on the other cat, even if it were larger, but if there were a number of cats available it would carefully select as its opponent a less forbidding foe. And, rather tahn just tear into its target, the stimulated cat would intelligently choose the best moment for attack, approaching the 'enemy' with care, adapting its motions to those of the other cat. In other words, brain stimulation of this sort does not obliterate normal patterns of behavioural hostile performance; it 'simply' evokes those response patterns where they would not normally exist at all.
The sort radical societal changes that can be affected by ESB has best been demonstrated in experiments with monkeys, animals that maintain very rigid 'rules' with regard to their social interactions.
Theirs is a highly autocratic society, in which domains and territories are firmly fixed. In each, the strongest monkey sets himself up as the 'boss' or the dictator, reserving for himself first choice of the females, the best food and the most space, while demanding from the others total subservience and submissiveness. Could the boss monkey's wellestablished dominance be attenuated electronically? And, if so, how would the other monkeys in this group react?
Researchers found that stimulation of various parts of the brain, notably the rostral part of caudate nucleus, seemed to nullifyp 166:
threatening, dominant behaviour. They strapped normally vicious rhesus monkeys into restraining chairs and stimulated this part of their brains. The moment they did so, the monkeys stopped their aggressive behaviour. They became so docile that the experimenters were even able to put their fingers in the monkeys' mouths. Hostilities were resumed as soon as the stimulation ceased.
Boss Monkeys were then returned to their domains and stimulated by remote control for five seconds every minute. The change in the 'dictator' was immediately apparent to the other monkeys, who slowly but surely began moving into territory generally reserved exclusively for the boss. Even after the other monkeys had taken all of his territory, the boss initiated no attacks. In general, he was content to sit back and play a subordinate role. Shortly after stimulation ceased, however, he reasserted his absolute authority.
In one of the most intriguing variations of this experiment, Dr Delgado again wired one of the boss monkeys so that electronic stimulation could overide his normal aggressiveness and authoritarianism. But this time he placed the stimulating lever in the cage with the monkeys. Curious creatures, they naturally began pressing it. After a number of trials they began to notice that they could literally switch off the monkey's aggressive behaviour simply by pressing the lever - and they did so frequently! Humans might sometimes wish that their own leaders could be controlled as effectively. Indeed, we have here a complete reversal of the situation envisioned earlier in this chapter, in which the autocrats 'wire' a subject population in order to 'optimise' its pproductivity. If the power-obsessed minority could be wired first, it's conceivable that the majority could get along together in a world free of nuclear brinkmanship, organised military aggression and threats of aggression. Conceivable.
Dr Delgado has demonstrated that even snorting bulls can be 'tamed' with the push of a button. In what has to be one of the most flamboyant experiments to date, Dr Delgado wired a bull with electrodes and, after it had recovered from the surgery, challenged it in the bullring with a red cape. Concealed behind the cape was a small radio transmitter. Dr Delgado waited until the bull was in full charge and only a couple of yards away - then he pushed a button on the transmitter and instantly reduced El Toro to a benign Ferdinand. The bull threw out its front legs and came to a grinding halt just inches from its target.p 167:
In still other experiments - these at the Yerkes Primate Centre -the meek have been made the aggressors. Three monkeys were placed together: a boss, a female and a subordinate male. As always, the female immediately sided with the boss, completely ignoring the smaller, weaker male. The latter stood meekly by until researchers remotely stimulated an area of its hypothalamus known to excite aggressive behaviour. Immediately it sprang into action, advancing on the astonished boss with increasing ferocity. Ultimately it forced the autocrat into a corner and a position of subservience. With an alacrity that must have further humiliated the deposed boss, the female immediately switched her allegience to the male she had previously spurned. 'Obviously, this study also showed something about the nature of the female,' was the wry observation of one of the Yerkes researchers. Surprisingly, the new boss remained dominant even after stimulation ceased, the old boss having apparently lost face permanently.
In another of these experiments at Yerkes, the boss was stimulated into a state of rage. One moment he was being groomed in the arms of his beloved; the next moment he was chasing her with murderous rather than amorous intent.
Because of the dramatic results that were obtained in the animal experiments, doctors decided to apply ESB to certain human subjects who were given to attacks of unreasoning rage. Some who yielded to the treatment had ten-year histories of rage attacks in which they would assault acquaintances or chance passers-by with deadly weapons and wreck whatever happened to be within easy reach. A team of doctors in Boston have treated a number of such patients at Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston General Hospital. The medical team, consisting of Dr Vernon Mark, Dr William Sweet, Dr Frank Ervin, Dr George Bach- y-Rita, Dr Rioji Hagiiwara, electrical engineer Gerhard Weiss and Dr Delgado, describes these cases in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases:
Yet another brain-damaged patient, a woman, attacked her husband more than five hundred times in aperiod of six years, battering him with chairs, dishes and a variety of blunt instrumants. Yet even such violent cases proved treatable with ESB, which could often be used to ward off these rage attacks or reverse them completely after their onset on any given occasion.
Electromemory and 'The Dream Machine'
It was in the course of treating brain-damaged individuals that Dr Wilder Penfield hit upon one of the most astounding properties of ESB. He was probing the brain of a woman with epilepsy at the Montreal Neurological Institute, trying to discover which areas were affected, when he noticed that stimulation in certain regions caused the woman to 'relive' various events in her life. At times she thought she was giving birth to one of her children all over again. The detailed accuracy with which this patient, and others on whom Dr Penfield subsequently operated, recalled experiences, some dating back to early childhood, stunned the surgeon. 'No man can, by voluntary effort,' he declared, 'call this amazing detail back to memory.' Dr Delgado, who has also observed this phenomenon in a variety of cases, calls what occurs 'experimential hallucinations'. The electronically induced experiences qualify as hallucinations because, as Dr Delgado describes them, they often 'appear more real and vivid than when thep. 169:
events actually happened. It is as if the patient had a double life, one in the past recalled by the electrical stimulation, and another in the present'. The patients not only see and feel things out of their past but even hear and smell them. It has been suggested that 'electromemory' may become a valuable tool in psychoanalysis, far outdistancing hypnosis as a means of bringing forgotten experiences to the surface.
The hallucinations are called 'experiential' because they usually have some basis in past experience. On some occasions, however, subjects have taken bizarre ESB 'trips', experiencing things they couldn't possibly have lived through in the past. This, coupled with the fact that it is possible to stimulate selected parts of the brain sequentially to create various states of mind, suggests that artificial experience might eventually become available to the consumer. It is possible to visualise 'dream machines' that would replace television and cinema. Even the average household might one day be equipped with such a device: a small console linked to a central computerised memory or experience bank that could be connected to the consumer's electrode terminals for the price of a few cents in electricity. Then the tuned-in consumer would have only to dial the code nuber of his desired experience - whether it might be night in bed with his favourite actress (guaranteed to be successful) or a precarious climb up Mount Everest (also guaranteed to be successful). It doesn't take much imagination to see how the phrase 'Live Better Electrically' could cease to be a mere advertising slogan.
It was this sort of arrangement that Daniel E. Noble, vice-chairman of the board of Motorola, Inc., had in mind when he coined the phrase 'electronic nirvana'. The same sort of 'library of vicarious living experiences' that he visualised for the turn of the century has been imagined by Arthur C. Clarke. With a nod to ESB progress, at the end of his book Profiles of the Future, Clarke states that 'artificial memories, if they could be composed, taped and then fed into the brain electronically... would be a form of vicarious experience far more vivid (because affecting all of the senses) than anything that could be produced by the massed resources of Hollywood. They would, indeed, be the ultimate form of entertainment - a fictitious experience more real than reality.'
When that day comes, the 'frontier' man seems to require will be only a few bursts of electricity away.