Hunting for Hedonia
Hunting for Hedonia explores how the burgeoning technology of Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) will impact human identity and our sense of self. DBS is a revolutionary tool in neuroscience and as a treatment it is crossing over from movement control in Parkinson’s to alleviating mental illness. Trials are underway in depression, OCD, PTSD and eating disorders. In addition, DBS has a fascinating forgotten history. In 1950, psychiatrist Robert Heath was the first to implant electrodes deep in the brain of a human and in the ensuing years he treated more than 70 patients in his deep brain stimulation program at Tulane University. Heath wanted to cure schizophrenia, but expanded his method to be used to treat depression, chronic pain and even aggression. His method was to stimulate the brain’s pleasure as he explored pleasure as part of the psychological healing process. But his focus on pleasure got him in trouble and erased him from scientific memory. Hunting for Hedonia contrasts history and present developments to examine and elucidate where DBS is going. Will this promising technology change psychiatry? And will the nifty electrodes move on from correcting abnormal activity in disease to perhaps ‘correcting’ unwanted but in fact normal activity? In other words: how far should – and would – the surgeons go in modulating our emotions and personal characteristics? If pleasure is just the push of a button away, will you want to push it?