Some scientists will just do about anything to get their point across. In 1963, neurophysiologist Jose Delgado entered a bull fighting arena, armed only with a small radio transmitter. The fighting bull, that had already been incited by the matador, noticed Delgado and bore down on the researcher. But when the animal was only a few steps away from Delgado, it suddenly stopped and turned away. The reason: its brain had been inserted with radio-equipped electrode arrays the day before. By engaging in a bull fight, Delgado wanted to show that an animals’ behavior can be controlled by a simple chip.
Although the spectacular experiment brought international fame upon Delgado, he personally never considered it to be of much scientific value. As a pioneer in ESB (Electrical Stimulation of the Brain), by then he had already done much more extensive research on other animals and even humans. In one other experiment, he had placed electrons in the brain of a dominant male macaque, that bullied the rest of the colony. Delgado then installed a lever in the cage that, when pressed, caused the electrons to stimulate the monkey’s caudate nucleus, a brain region involved in controlling movement. It wasn’t long until Elsa, one of the females, discovered the lever’s power and yanked it whenever the male tried to threaten her. When the lever was available, Elsa blocked many attacks against herself and maintained a peaceful coexistence within the whole colony.
Delgado, satisfied with his findings, stated that “the old dream of an individual overpowering the strength of a dictator by remote control has been fulfilled, at least in our monkey colonies.”
In the early seventies Delgado moves on to humans. When he is also able to control their movements against their will, some people start getting uncomfortable with his work. Ethical questions are raised and soon E.S.B. becomes a synonym for “brainwashing”. The controversy is fuelled by some alarming quotes by Delgado, such as his statement that neurotechnology “was on the verge of conquering the mind” and creating “a less cruel, happier, and better man.” When he moves back toSpainin 1974, his work gets lost in oblivion. His accomplishments, however, helped to pave the way for modern brain-implant technology, which is enjoying a resurgence today and is improving life for patients with epilepsy and such movement disorders as Parkinson’s and dystonia.
Read Physical Control of the Mind by Jose Delgado
Delgado, J. M. R.; Roberts, W. W.; Miller, N. E. (1954). LEARNING MOTIVATED BY ELECTRICAL STIMULATION OF THE BRAIN American Journal of Physiology