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The Pleasure Shock: The Rise of Deep Brain Stimulation and Its Forgotten Inventor Lone Frank Dutton: 2018.

Many people consider deep-brain stimulation (DBS) to have begun in 1987 in Grenoble, France, when Pierre Pollak and Alim Benabid stopped a person’s tremor by delivering high-frequency pulses of electricity to her thalamus. In fact, more than three decades earlier, a psychiatrist called Robert G. Heath at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, had experimented with this approach. Now, science writer Lone Frank pulls Heath (1915–99) from obscurity for her exploration of DBS, The Pleasure Shock.

Frank has traced and interviewed surviving patients, former collaborators, family members and current DBS scientists. The result is a rarity: a thrilling, well-researched read. Above all, it is a chilling reminder of how early neurosurgical experimentation knew few ethical boundaries — even firmly within the medical and academic establishment. Heath was chair of Tulane’s psychiatry and neurology department for 31 years, from 1949 to 1980.

Thumb Image: University archives, Howard-Tilton Memorial Lib. Tulane Univ via Nature

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