The Pleasure Shock: The Rise of Deep Brain Stimulation and Its Forgotten Inventor

Lone Frank. Dutton, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-1-101-98653-0
Science writer Frank (My Beautiful Genome) takes a deep dive into the work of a controversial “pioneer by accident,” psychiatrist Robert G. Heath, whose use of electrode stimulation to the brain’s “pleasure center” to treat schizophrenia and depression in the 1950s and ’60s horrified and fascinated academia, the CIA, and the U.S. Senate. This wide-ranging, thoughtful exploration of Heath’s complicated legacy combs through documents, film footage, and interviews with Heath’s colleagues, his son, and a patient. It begins with the treatment of patient B-19, a gay man who was supposed to be cured with electrodes and a prostitute; when Heath died in 1999, his work was largely judged by that perverse episode: “It seems as if he had a vision of something of which he could not clearly see the contours—quite simply because science had not yet reached far enough and the tools were still primitive.” Though Heath’s work has been discredited, he began an approach that’s getting a new look from psychiatry and industry, making one psychosurgeon’s assessment particularly poignant: “You are a hero until you are not.” Frank has written an excellent, balanced portrait of an inventive psychiatrist with a complicated legacy. Agent: Peter Tallack, the Science Factory. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/22/2018
Release date: 03/20/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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