In his three-part series on psychosurgery in America entitled "Violence, Mental Illness and the Brain," my friend, Dr. Miguel Faria, has written one of the best published summaries on the history of neurosurgical treatment of psychiatric disorders by selective sectioning or abolition of specific parts of the behavioral brain. Within those pages (originally published this spring and summer 2013 in Surgical Neurology International), Faria discusses the anatomy involved and the interrelated nature of brain nuclei in altering human behavior in such a way as to bring clarity to a very difficult topic.
As a historian, Dr. Faria understands the social forces faced by men when dealing with a very sensitive subject, which in the third part of his article he brings to us in very sharp focus. Today, psychosurgery is mostly a thing of the past. Much of the pressure to end psychosurgery not only came from the American left but also from the fact that better, less invasive methods became available.
I feel at this point compelled to relate a story told by a visitor traveling with a group of leftist Americans to communist Cuba, which is told in a collection of experiences in the book Destructive Generation by Peter Collier and David Horowitz. The group was taken to a psychiatric hospital to see some of the patients who had undergone a state-sponsored frontal lobotomy. The author of the piece said he turned to the person next to him, expressing horror, and asked “But, isn’t this what we are fighting against in the United States?” The person, nonchalantly turned to him and said, “You don’t understand, those are capitalist lobotomies — they are an abomination. These are socialist lobotomies.”
Like, Dr. Faria, I also have a deep interest in behavior and brain function and studied the period of psychosurgery covered in his series, having read many of the same books referenced. I first read Vernon Mark (photo, right) and Frank Ervin’s book, Violence and the Brain, soon after I went into private neurosurgical practice and I found it to be fascinating. One of the main themes in this book was the dyscontrol syndrome, which I still adhere to today.
What Mark and Ervin demonstrated was that a person with an otherwise perfectly normal anatomical brain can have a subcortical seizure within limbic and paralimbic structures of the brain and demonstrate episodic rage and even directed violence, the latter being more dangerous. It has only been with the advent of modern functional brain imaging that we have been able to come closer too proving that directed, that is, planned violence can also have an anatomic-physiological explanation. With the dyscontrol syndrome the impulse for violence becomes either disconnected from inhibitory systems, such as the orbitofrontal cortex and medial prefrontal cortex, or a seizure focus, usually in the amygdala, drives the impulse.
They also found a strong link to alcohol exposure, ironically, with even very small doses. Mark and Ervin point out that it does not appear to be the alcohol itself but some other link that is responsible for the phenomenon. They base this on the finding that intravenous (IV) alcohol in these individuals does not have the same effect. It could be the smell of the alcohol acting on olfactory pathways, which directly enter the limbic circuits.
What these two neuroscientists demonstrated was critically important and still not fully appreciated by modern neurosurgeons and neurologists, far less by psychiatrists. Mark and Ervin further demonstrated that these seizures could not only involve discrete anatomical locations within the limbic system, but could also remain silent both clinically and when using surface EEG techniques. In fact, many of these seizures can only be detected by deep electrodes or the more sensitive magnetoencephalography (MEG) testing. As a result, at least some violent individuals inhabiting our society are suffering from these behaviorally-linked silent seizures and therefore go undiagnosed.
Dr. Jose Delgado and Mind Control
Another physician Dr. Faria discusses in his series of articles is the notorious Dr. Jose Delgado (photo, below), a brilliant neurophysiologist and expert in behavioral control of the mind by deep electrodes. I say notorious, because during the latter part of his career he went underground, no longer published his work and was paid by the federal government to conduct studies on mind control at a distance. In a rare interview, he told a science reporter that he was now able to control some human behavior at a distance without having to use deep electrodes.
I was also fascinated, and frightened, by Delgado's book — Physical Control of the Mind: Toward a Psychocivilized Society. A great deal of the book is concerned with his physiological studies, many on primates. Of particular interest in human aggressiveness are his studies on planned aggression as opposed to mere sham rage attacks, which are more reflexic. Planned aggression during brain stimulation does not completely override behavioral control mechanisms, especially protective behavioral mechanisms, but rather heightens aggressive impulses and desires, making them more difficult to resist.
For example, Delgado found that stimulation of the lateral hypothalamus caused an animal to prowl around its cage looking for fights with subordinate animals, but still avoiding the most powerful of the group. This means that careful evaluation was being carried out, based on previous experience and learned skills. Such behavior resembles the criminal who carefully plans his crimes, based on risk of being caught and the possibility that the intended victim might overcome him. Delgado also found that stimulation of specific points in the thalamus increased aggressiveness and caused “well directed attacks against other members of the group.” These brain stimulation experiments in animals are discussed in Part 2 of Faria's series.
In the latter chapters of his book, Dr. Delgado discusses the ethical and social aspects of brain control. He states:
New neurological technology, however, has a refined efficiency. The individual is defenseless against direct manipulation of the brain because he is deprived of his most intimate mechanism of biological reactivity. In experiments, electrical stimulation of appropriate intensity always prevailed over free will… Destruction of the frontal lobes produced changes in affectiveness, which are beyond any personal control.
Delgado then identifies the worst scenario:
The possibility of scientific annihilation of personal identity, or even worse, its purposeful control, has sometime been considered a future threat more awful than atomic holocaust.
Further, Delgado justifies such intervention by noting that many public health interventions are done against the will of those involved for the greater good. (A term often used by collectivists. Of course, they are the ones who determine what constitutes the “greater good.”) Delgado concludes by defining the tremendous benefits to be gained from neurological alternation of human beings:
Its practical application…a means of escaping from the blind forces of chance and of influencing cerebral mechanisms and mental structure in order to create a future man with greater personal freedom and originality, a member of a psychocivilized society, happier, less destructive, and better balanced than present man.
The entire philosophy of socialism is predicated on the idea of perfecting man, thus creating a collective man, who is little more than a cog in the all-embracing wheel of the state. Delgado further states: "The concept of individuals as self-sufficient and independent entities is based on false premises.” Like Feurbach and Comte before him, Delgado sees the uniqueness of man as a creation of God as disproven by Darwin and his cohorts. Having accepted the nonsense of evolution, Delgado sees no problem with recreating man in the elites’ image.
Today, a group of neuroscientists are working tirelessly to prove that free will is an illusion and that we are nothing more than clever animals. Using sophisticated functional brain imaging techniques, these nefarious haters of God are attempting to localize in the brain the attributes that make man unique — such as empathy, compassion, political beliefs, morality, musical ability and religious beliefs. Recent reviews have shown that many of these techniques have serious shortcomings and that often the proponents of functional imaging make giant leaps in interpretation not supported by the observations.
Dr. Delgado points out the major dilemma facing the brain engineers of today — “As our power to influence the mental structure of man continually increases, we face the question of the kind of people we would like to create.” Of course, as stated, it will be the power elite, who will decide.
Like others before him, Delgado states that we cannot wait for “evolution” to perfect the human brain; man must take the responsibility and speed up the process. This, of course, is the Gnostic doctrine, which states that all of us can become like gods with the intervention of the illuminated elites. Virtually all modern “isms” are driven by this premise.
The Role of Nutrition and Neurotransmission
Since the heyday of psychosurgery we have learned a great deal more about the workings of the human brain, and most important is the default brain — the silent thinking and analysis network. Pharmaceutical treatments have improved in some ways but in other ways appear to have made the problem worse, as seen with the triggering of homicide and suicides with Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI) medications.
Still not fully appreciated has been the tremendous role played by nutrition in brain function, both negative and positive. The studies by Barbara Reed Stitt (Food & Behavior) demonstrate a very powerful link between poor diets and criminal behavior, especially violent behavior and drug addiction. Newer revelations linking schizophrenia with intolerance to gluten and gliadin have changed the way we should think about this debilitating disorder and the link between glutamate metabolism and a growing number of neuropsychiatric disorders should likewise alter our thinking about serious psychiatric disease. In my DVD, "Nutrition & Behavior" (available through the Blaylock Wellness Center) I discuss other links between diet and behavior.
A number of newer studies have shown that the glutamatergic neurotransmitter system, which regulates most of the other neurotransmitters, is in turn altered by chronic inflammatory conditions, leading to behavioral abnormalities. I have called this linkage immunoexcitotoxicity. While neurosurgical procedures of a much more localized and specific type may offer further improvements in serious psychiatric disorders, we must carefully evaluate the moral dimensions of such interventions. In addition, we must guard against state intervention and control of such procedures.
Dr. Faria’s three-part series on the history of psychosurgery in America published in Surgical Neurology International (SNI) provides us with a very valuable overview of physical manipulation of the brain. I knew one of the personalities in Part 2, Dr. Orlando Andy, a very brilliant neurosurgeon at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. He pioneered a number of techniques for deep electrode studies and defined a number of functional responses that remain controversial. While recognizing his brilliance, he was often the subject of criticism based on his judgment in performing these studies.
If one reviews the studies done on patients undergoing the various psychosurgical procedures, such as frontal lobotomy, orbital undercutting, selective destruction of cingulate pathways and amydalectomy, one comes away with several realizations. Control of the worst of the patients — mainly for violent dyscontrol, schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive behavior — by pharmaceutical and psychiatric techniques most often failed. Such patients were relegated to a life confined in a mental institution. It was these individuals who were selected for psychosurgical treatment, in that all other methods had failed to help them. Dr. Faria addresses this in Part 3 of his series.
Several contributors to Edward Hitchcock et al’s book, Psychosurgery (Charles C. Thomas Publishers, Springfield, 1972), carefully evaluate the success rate of the various procedures. Several studies reported as high as 80% of patients being able to return to work, with minimal interference with higher brain functions. Of course, one must appreciate that testing was less well defined and specific in that period.
Dr. William Beecher Scoville reviewed the effect of surgical lesions on the psyche and behavior in his patients in Arthur Winter’s book, The Surgical Control of Behavior (Charles C. Thomas Publishers, Springfield, 1971), and reported good results for a number of intractable behavioral problems, such as severe, homicidal schizophrenia, drug addiction and recurrent depression. He does note that psychopaths, sex perverts, and criminals rarely respond positively to lobotomy and many become worse.
Dr. Faria’s three-part series deserves high praise and the articles should be saved and re-read often. It is written in his usual clear style, well-organized and filled with interesting facts and anatomy.
Written by Russell L. Blaylock, MD
Dr. Russell L. Blaylock is President of Advanced Nutritional Concepts and Theoretical Neurosciences in Jackson, Mississippi. He has written numerous path-blazing scientific papers and many books, including Excitotoxins — The Taste That Kills (1994), Bioterrorism: How You Can Survive (2001), Health and Nutrition Secrets (2002), and Natural Strategies for Cancer Patients (2003). He is Associate Editor-in-Chief and a Consulting Editor in Basic Neuroscience for Surgical Neurology International (SNI).
Copyright ©2013 Russell L. Blaylock, M.D.