Robert Galbraith Heath

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Robert Galbraith Heath (May 9, 1915 September 21, 1999) was an American psychiatrist. [1] [2] He followed the theory of biological psychiatry that organic defects were the sole source of mental illness, [3] and that consequently mental problems were treatable by physical means. He published 425 papers and three books. [4] [5] [6] One of his first papers is dated 1946. [7]


Heath founded the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology at Tulane University, New Orleans, in 1949 and remained its chairman until 1980. [8] [9] [10] He performed many experiments there involving electrical stimulation of the brain via surgically implanted electrodes. He placed deep brain stimulation (DBS) electrodes into the brains of more than 54 patients. [11] [12] [13] [14] It has been suggested that this work was financed in part by the CIA and US military. [15] In 1972, he claimed to have converted a homosexual man to heterosexuality using DBS. [13]

Heath also experimented with the drug bulbocapnine to induce stupor, and LSD, [16] [17] using prisoners in the Louisiana State Penitentiary as experimental subjects. [18] He worked on schizophrenia patients, which he regarded as an illness with a physical basis. [19]

Gay conversion therapy

Heath was experimenting in 1953 on inducing paroxysms through brain stimulation. [20] During the course of his experiments in deep brain stimulation, Heath experimented with gay conversion therapy, and claimed to have successfully converted a homosexual patient, labeled in his paper as Patient B-19. The patient, who had been arrested for marijuana possession, was implanted with electrodes into the septal region (associated with feelings of pleasure), and many other parts of his brain. The septal electrodes were then stimulated while he was shown heterosexual pornographic material. The patient was later encouraged to have intercourse with a prostitute recruited for the study. As a result, Heath claimed the patient was successfully converted to heterosexuality. This research would be deemed unethical today for a variety of reasons. The patient was recruited for the study while under legal duress, and further implications for the patient's well-being, including indications that electrode stimulation was addictive, were not considered. [21] [22] [23]

Cannabis studies

Heath conducted a study on two rhesus macaques trained to smoke "the equivalent of one marijuana cigarette a day, five days a week for six months" [24] and concluded that cannabis causes permanent changes in the brain. Nonetheless, he supported cannabis decriminalization. [24] He later conducted a National Institutes of Health-funded study on 13 rhesus monkeys, with one rotating group representing "heavy smokers" whose cannabis dosage was believed to be comparable to three marijuana cigarettes smoked daily, a "moderate" group that was given the equivalent of one joint a day, and a third group that puffed inactive cannabis. He concluded, "Alcohol is a simple drug with a temporary effect. Marijuana is complex with a persisting effect." [25] According to the BBC, "His findings of permanent brain damage have been dismissed by similar, independently conducted studies. But other scientists have argued these methods of animal research are inconclusive." [26] According to NORML, Heath's "work was never replicated and has since been discredited by a pair of better controlled, much larger monkey studies, one by Dr. William Slikker of the National Center for Toxicological Research and the other by Charles Rebert and Gordon Pryor of SRI International." [27]

Selected publications

See also


  1. O’Neal, Christen M.; Baker, Cordell M.; Glenn, Chad A.; Conner, Andrew K.; Sughrue, Michael E. (September 2017). "Dr. Robert G. Heath: a controversial figure in the history of deep brain stimulation". Neurosurgical Focus. 43 (3): E12. doi: 10.3171/2017.6.FOCUS17252 .
  2. Nick Ravo (25 September 1999). "Robert G. Heath, 84, Researcher Into the Causes of Schizophrenia" . The New York Times . p. B 7. Retrieved 2 November 2020.
  3. Heath, R.G. (1961). "Reappraisal of biological aspects of psychiatry". Journal of Neuropsychiatry. 3: 1–11. PMID   13905794.
  4. "Robert Galbraith Heath, MD, DMSci (1915-1999)". Neurology. 54 (2): 286–286. January 25, 2000. doi:10.1212/WNL.54.2.286.
  5. Articles of Dr. R.G. Heath at the National Center for Biotechnology Information
  6. Robert Heath, MD interviewed by Wallace K. Tomlinson, MD
  7. HEATH, RG; NORMAN, EC (December 1946). "Electroshock therapy by stimulation of discrete cortical sites with small electrodes". Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine (New York, N.Y.). 63 (3): 496–502. doi:10.3181/00379727-63-15650. PMID   20281090.
  8. "In Memoriam: Robert Galbraith Heath, MD, DMSci (1915–1999)". Neurology. 54 (2): 286. 2000. doi:10.1212/wnl.54.2.286.
  9. Correa, AJ; Llewellyn, RC; Epps, J; Jarrott, D; Eiswirth, C; Heath, RG (1980). "Chronic cerebellar stimulation in the modulation of behavior". Acta Neurol Latinoam. 26 (3): 143–53. PMID   6807046.
  10. 1 2 Heath, RG; Llewellyn, RC; Rouchell, AM (1980). "The cerebellar pacemaker for intractable behavioral disorders and epilepsy: follow-up report" (PDF). Biol. Psychiatry. 15 (2): 243–56. PMID   7417614.
  11. Becker, Hal C. (1957). "A roentgenographic stereotaxic technique for implanting and maintaining electrodes in the brain of man". Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology. 9 (3): 533–543. doi:10.1016/0013-4694(57)90042-1. PMID   13447860.
  12. Heath, R.G. (1963). "Electrical self-stimulation of the brain in man". American Journal of Psychiatry. 120 (6): 571–577. doi:10.1176/ajp.120.6.571. PMID   14086435.
  13. 1 2 Moan, C.E.; Heath, R.G. (1972). "Septal stimulation for the initiation of heterosexual activity in a homosexual male". Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. 3: 23–30. doi:10.1016/0005-7916(72)90029-8.
  14. Heath, Robert G. (1958). "Correlation of Electrical Recordings from Cortical and Subcortical Regions of the Brain with Abnormal Behavior in Human Subjects". Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery. 18 (2–4): 305–315. doi:10.1159/000105075. PMID   13597512.
  15. "Robert Heath at Wireheading". 1977-08-02. Retrieved 2013-07-27.
  16. Monroe, RR; Heath, RG (1961). "Effects of lysergic acid and various derivatives on depth and cortical electrograms". J Neuropsychiatry. 3: 75–82. PMID   14475431.
  17. Monroe, RR; Heath, RG; Mickle, WA; Llewellyn, RC (1957). "Correlation of rhinencephalic electrograms with behavior; a study on humans under the influence of LSD and mescaline". Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol. 9 (4): 623–42. doi:10.1016/0013-4694(57)90084-6. PMID   13480236.
  18. Jr, Alan W. Scheflin, Edward M. Opton (1978). The Mind Manipulators: A non-fiction account. New York: Paddington Press. pp. 314–315. ISBN   978-0-448-22977-5.
  19. Heath, R.G. (1967). "Schizophrenia: pathogenetic theories". International Journal of Psychiatry. 3 (5): 407–10. PMID   6045581.
  20. HEATH, RG; PEACOCK SM, Jr; MILLER W, Jr (1953). "Induced paroxysmal electrical activity in man recorded simultaneously through subcortical and scalp electrodes". Transactions of the American Neurological Association. 3 (78th Meeting): 247–50. PMID   13179226.
  21. Heath, R (1972). "Pleasure and brain activity in man". The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 154 (1): 3–18. doi:10.1097/00005053-197201000-00002. PMID   5007439.
  22. Horgan, John (May 14, 2012). "What Are Science's Ugliest Experiments?". Scientific American Blog Network.
  23. Colvile, Robert (July 4, 2016). "The 'gay cure' experiments that were written out of scientific history". Mosaic Science.
  24. 1 2 "Marijuana Tied To Brain Change In Monkey Tests". The New York Times. January 13, 1978. Retrieved 2019-11-02.
  25. Chandler, David (December 9, 1974). "Pot Is Safe, Right: Wrong, Says a Doctor: It Can Cause Brain Damage". People. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  26. "BBC ON THIS DAY | 2 | 1974: Cannabis 'causes brain damage'". BBC News. 1993-10-02. Retrieved 2019-11-02.
  27. "Myths About Marijuana". Retrieved 2019-11-02.
  28. Heath, RG; Rouchell, AM; Goethe, JW (1981). "Cerebellar stimulation in treating intractable behavior disorders". Curr Psychiatr Ther. 20: 329–36. PMID   7326976.
  29. Llewellyn, RC; Heath, RG (1962). "A surgical technique for chronic electrode implantation in humans". Confin Neurol. 22 (3–5): 223–7. doi:10.1159/000104364. PMID   13931099.
  30. Bishop, MP; Elder, ST; Heath, RG (1963). "Intracranial self-stimulation in man". Science. 140 (3565): 394–6. doi:10.1126/science.140.3565.394. PMID   13971228.

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