1950s: Jose Delgado, MD, pioneered wireless implanted electrode to control human behavior

Delgado was the Director of Neuropsychiatry at Yale University Medical School who was called a “technological wizard” for his numerous inventions. He invented a miniature electrode implanted in the brain — called a stimoceiver — which is capable of receiving and transmitting electronic signals wirelessly through radio waves. Once implanted, the subject’s emotional and behavioral responses could be manipulated by remote control. Delgado perfected his technique in monkeys and cats and dramatically demonstrated the effectiveness of his stimoceiver in a film clip showing how a fully grown charging bull was stopped in its tracks with a click on the remote box.

In 1952 Delgado co-authored the first a peer-reviewed paper describing long-term electrode implantation in humans. Much of Delgado’s work was funded by the Office of Naval Intelligence, a conduit for CIA funding in the 1950s and 1960s. He implanted a stimoceiver in at least 25 humans — mostly women diagnosed with schizophrenia or epilepsy. The device was heralded as a great scientific contribution in the 1960s and 1970s. In his article in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease (1968) he stated that “brain transmitters can remain in a person’s head for life.” In 1969, Delgado published Physical Control of the Mind: Toward a Psychocivilized Society, in which foresees a new era when humans will undergo “psycho-civilization” by linking their brains directly to machines.

Delgado’s stimoceiver was used clinically to inhibit or incite aggression in patients which Delgado viewed as a humane alternative to lobotomy. Several of Delgado’s experiments were recorded on film. One shows a woman calmly playing a guitar until an electric current remotely stimulates her brain, at which point she jumps up violently and smashes her guitar against the wall. The experiment was repeated three days in a row. (Psychocivilization) Delgado also used non-invasive remotely controlled electromagnetic radiation. He proudly summed up how he has “used electrodes implanted for days or months to block thought, speech, and movement, or to trigger joy, laughter, friendliness, verbal activity, generosity, fear, hallucinations, and memory.”

Delgado’s reductionist views of human psychology and his quest to provide mechanical means for externally controlling human behavior poses a terrifying threat to individual freedom and autonomy. If his mechanical device had proven itself reliable and predictable, it would have provided governments with push-button population control. Indeed, in a 1966 presentation, Delgado acknowledged that his experiments “support the distasteful conclusion that motion, emotion, and behaviour can be directed by electrical forces and that humans can be controlled like robots by push buttons.”
(cited by Guyatt. Aspects of Anti Personnel Electromagnetic Weapons)

Delgado invented an implantable device — “chemitrode” — to ensure the involuntary intake of psychotropic drugs which were released directly into the brain. [In 2006, the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, began a drug implant experiment on mental patients. The experiment was backed by the University’s Bioethics Center, which in turn is backed by millions of dollars from pharmaceutical companies. * http://ahrp.org/wp-admin/post.php?post=7114&action=edit>

Delgado’s 1969 book remains the sole full-length work on intracerebral implants and electronic stimulation of the brain. While subsequent work has long since superseded the techniques described in this book, Delgado’s achievements were seminal. Delgado also embraced the view espoused by Ramon y Cajal, a histologist who inspired him: “knowledge of the physicochemical basis of memory, feelings, and reason would make man the true master of creation, his most transcendental accomplishment would be the conquering of his own brain.” (Bartas and Ekman. Psychocivilization and its Discontents, 2001)

Albert Einstein famously observed, “it has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity. . . The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” (Albert Einstein, the Taoist, 2013)

Dr. Peter Breggin summed up Delgado’s written statements in his article The Return of Lobotomy and Psychosurgery” which he submitted into the Congressional Record (1972):

We need a program of psychosurgery for political control of our society. The purpose is physical control of the mind. Everyone who deviates from the given norm can be surgically manipulated. The individual may think that the most important reality is his own existence, but this is only his personal point of view. This lacks historical perspective. Man does not have the right to develop his own mind. This kind of liberal orientation has great appeal. We must electrically control the brain. Someday armies and generals will be controlled by electric stimulation of the brain

The individual may think that the most important reality is his own existence, but this is only his personal point of view. This lacks historical perspective. Man does not have the right to develop his own mind. This kind of liberal orientation has great appeal. We must electronically control the brain. Someday armies and generals will be controlled by electric stimulation of the brain. (Congressional Record, No. 26, Vol. 118 February 24, 1972)

Ultimately, after the Congressional hearings Delgado’s experiments on humans were publicly scrutinized and condemned and he was pursued with lawsuits by individuals who accused him of experimenting on them against their will. Delgado retreated to Spain, where the government offered him a job to start a medical school at the Autonomous University of Madrid.

In an interview in Madrid in 2001, when the 85-year old Delgado was asked what therapeutic results came from these experiments, “As a whole, they didn’t result in any methods, except in the case of patients with chronic pain.” Delgado admitted that not one useful application of the stimoceiver has come out of his research. He indicated that the therapeutic benefits of implants were unreliable; specific behavior could not be predicted in humans; results varied widely even in the same patient.

“We knew too little about the brain. It is much too complicated to be controlled. We never knew which parts of the brain we were stimulating with the stimoceiver. We didn’t even manage to prevent epileptic attacks, which we thought would be the simplest of things. We never found the area where epilepsy attacks originate.” Delgado says all of this without a trace of bitterness. (Psychocivilization)