Physical Manipulation of the Brain


Man's increasing technological ability to control human behavior by psychosurgery and electrical stimulation of the brain has given rise to some difficult and provocative problems. What are the realistic social implications? Should legislation be passed controlling the field? Or would professional guidelines alone be sufficient? Is individual freedom threatened? Does the relief the treatment can offer over-ride the potential social hazards? What ethical issues are posed by direct intervention in the brain?

General public awareness of these questions has been slow to emerge. In recent months, however, the publicity given to the attacks of Dr. Peter Breggin on psychosurgery, the hearings of Senator Kennedy's subcommittee on health, and other events have brought the issues to the fore. Shortly before this new round of public attention, the Research Group on Behavior Control of the Institute held a conference to discuss “physical manipulation of the brain.” The participants included the members of the behavior control research group together with a number of invited guests from the fields of neurosurgery and psychiatry.

An edited transcript of their discussion follows. Identification of the participants is listed at the end of the article.