Defense of Robert G. Heath, M.D., Sc. D
Before The Society For Neuroscience
James W. Prescott, Ph.D.
commentaries on What happens when
the brain is stimulated in order to treat persistent depression?
By members of the Society For Neuroscience to my Posting Brain Stimulation to treat depression and
violence by activating Pleasure have been extensively studied by Dr. Robert G.
Heath, Chairman Department of Psychiatry and Neurology, Tulane University
Medical School, New Orleans. His findings can be found at
Brain Pleasure Systems Inhibit Brain Violence Systems
Robert G. Heath, D.Sc., M.D.: Pleasure and Brain Activity in Man. Deep and Surface Electroencephalograms During Orgasm
The commentaries are incomprehensible coming from the new generation of neuroscientists, e.g.
1. This is the most boggling, unethical, and offensive piece of "research" I've ever come across. I can't imagine what the rest of the papers by this guy are like.
2. "This study involved taking a severely depressed, drug addicted, gay man into the hospital, letting him stimulate his own brain, and then tracking down a prostitute to have sex with him. This is the most boggling, unethical, and offensive piece of "research" I've ever come across."
3. Robert G. Heath work is painful and jaw dropping for me to read as a student of neuroscience.
4. Wait, what? "To recap: this study involved taking a severely depressed, drug addicted, gay man into the hospital, letting him stimulate his own brain, and then tracking down a prostitute to have sex with him."
5. That's got to be one of the least ethical research experiments I've heard of in some time.
6. A "scientific" study that reads like a penny dreadful. Really horrible, but impossible to stop reading
7. woah. Archetypal 'Mad-Scientist'?
8. To "cure" homosexuals
9. Deep brain stimulation is such a cool, successful, amazing piece of technology, that I was excited to read a little more about its historical roots. But man. I don't even know what to say now10. wow, just wow. So never going to complain about IRB again if it ends research like this.
11. Since when has "Ethics" been more important than Hot Sex?
12. Thanks for resurrecting this article and your witty commentary. If you're looking for a nice rundown of unethical experiments, a standard source is Beecher's 1966 paper, "Ethics and Clinical Research"
13. Checkout John Cutler's experiment on syphilis. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3p5Y3yWtj0s
14. Well, yeah, it doesn't sound as if that experiment should have been performed. While there's several things fishy about it, I just want to mention on the issue of the prostitute that there are countries on the planet where prostitution is legal, Germany being one of them. (Check Wikipedia if you don't believe it.) Now that wasn't the case in the 70s, and it still isn't the case in the USA, but I happen to think it's a sensible arrangement and in 50 years or so North America will probably figure this out and also legalize prostitution.
15. What's unethical? Did they kidnap the guy or did he volunteer? If he volunteered, there's nothing unethical about it.
These comments reflect an abysmal and tragic assault by members of the Society for Neuroscience against one of the national and internationally renowned neuropsychiatrists who has spent his lifetime in studying the brain disorders in mental and behavioral disorders, which calls for corrective action.
The Society for Neuroscience should take action to repudiate the actions of those members who have personally questioned the ethics of Dr. Heath in the conduct of his research. Dr. Heath received approval from the IRBs (Institute Review Boards) that approved of his research, which included his documentation that maternal-infant separation of infrahuman primates (anhedonia) leads to a variety of brain disorders that mediate the variety of behavioral disorders well described by Harlow, Mason and many other behavioral primatologists. See
Heath, R. G. (l975): Maternal-social deprivation and abnormal brain development: Disorders of emotional and social behavior. In Brain Function and Malnutrition: : Neuropsychological Methods of Assessment (Prescott, J.W., Read, M.S., & Coursin, D.B., Eds). John Wiley New York. http://www.violence.de/heath/bfm/article.html
which documented septal spiking as a major brain pathology in these violent adult mother-deprived primates.
The history of the brain pathologies and neural pathways in these violent primates can be seen at: http://www.violence.de/archive.shtml#Neural_Pathways and at
A theoretical model of the consequences of encoding PAIN or PLEASURE in the evolutionary subcortical emotional-social -sexual brain and the later developing neocortical thinking, cognitive brain that can account for the majority of mental behavioral disorders found in culture is at:
Prescott, J.W. (2003). Our Two Cultural Brains: Neurointegrative and Neurodissociative that are formed by Pain and Pleasure Life Experiences encoded in the Developing Brain
Dr. Heath’s life work has been committed to relieving the pain and suffering associated with mental disorders that is best stated by one of his patients:
HEATH R.G. (1972) Pleasure and Brain Activity in Man J. Nervous & Mental Disease
The patient said he had never experienced before such intense feelings of pleasure, which were in sharp contrast to his dysphoria during spontaneous epileptiform discharges (p.15).
Dr. Heath often selected his patients who had failed all other psychiatric treatments, thus validating his research and his compassion for the person’s illness he was attempting to understand.
Dr. Heath’s documentation of the role of the cerebellum in mental and behavioral disorders deserves greater attention than it has received;
Robert G. Heath,
D.Sc., M.D.: Gross Pathology of the Cerebellum in Patients Diagnosed and
Treated as Functional Psychiatric Disorders
Heath, Llewellyn and Rouchell: "The Cerebellar Pacemaker for Intractable Behavioral Disorders and Epilepsy: Follow-Up Report" Biological Psychiatry, Volume 15, Number 2 (1980), pp. 243-256 http://www.violence.de/heath/bps/Heath1980.pdf
Biological Psychiatry, Volume 17, Number 5 (1982), pp. 569-583
This is an appeal to the Society for Neuroscience to take action and I am forwarding this communication to
Daniel K. Winstead, MD
Robert G. Heath Professor and Chairman, Department of Psychiatry/Neurology
Tulane University Medical School
New Orleans, LA 70118
to review this communication and to take action to restore the integrity, reputation and ethical conduct of Dr. Robert G. Heath that has been challenged by the Society for Neuroscience,
James W. Prescott, Ph.D.
1140-23 Savannah Road
Lewes, DE 19958