The nervous system
The nervous system is an integral part of the human body as it not only influences behavior, thoughts, and emotions but also regulates significant body activities such as breathing in and out of air. For this reason, there is a need to study the nervous system to understand its functions and how to rectify potential problems. Today, neuroscientists are studying the causes of more than 1,000 brain disorders such as Schizophrenia to understand how to prevent and treat them. Nevertheless, Dr. Robert Heath is one of the many scientists who conducted studies about human brains. Precisely, Dr. Heath performed extensive research to determine the electrical stimulation of the brain (ESB). He believed that physicians could utilize ESB to treat homosexuality. Dr. Heath primarily used African Americans as his subjects and received funds from the U.S. military and the CIA. Later, Gero Miesenboeck expanded Dr. Heath’s work as he utilized classical conditioning approaches to study the human brain. Heath’s and Meisonboeck’s experiments have similar goals and different experimental subjects, while Meisonboeck’s use of fruit flies proves the classical conditioning theory.
Comparison of Dr. Heath’s and Miesenboeck’s Experiments
Robert Heath’s bold experiments on the etiology of schizophrenia
The U.S. government through the military and the CIA funded and supported Robert Heath’s bold experiments on the etiology of schizophrenia. Heath worked alongside a multidisciplinary team at Tulane University in New Orleans. They focused on an area deep within the brain that had a group of interconnected structures such as the hippocampus, the limbic system, and the septum which generates feelings and powerful emotions. Heath and his team also started to perform surgical operations on various mental patients to insert electrodes and small tubes in their brain from 1950. Several videos about Heath’s research show a specific circuitry and the neurochemical procedures that Heath and his team discovered after studying schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. Heath later adopted the same techniques of electrical and chemical stimulation for therapeutic purposes on patients whom physicians had initially considered untreatable. As a result, Heath and his team performed surgical operations on more than sixty patients over the span of a quarter-century. Heath and his team would use the operations to insert about 125 electrodes in the skull of a single patient. They also developed mechanisms that ensured the electrodes remained in place for years. Nevertheless, scientists later unveiled technological innovations such as external push-button self-stimulators that physicians could use for therapeutic purposes.
While he undoubtedly acknowledged Heath’s efforts, Geo Miesenboeck decided to utilize a less invasive approach to major surgery. Miesenboeck utilized the classical conditioning techniques to expand on Heath’s research which helped him to experiment with light and flies. According to Ivan Pavlov who formulated the classical condition theory, an unconditioned stimulus elicits an actual response when a physician presents it to a person or a scientists presents it to an animal during an experiment. Pavlov further adds that the addition of a neutral stimulus to the unconditional stimulus contributes to the unconditioned response. For this reason, Miesenboeck used scents and blue light to stimulate and influence flies. He later realized that a scientist can train an animal in this manner and used this discovery to improve his theory of optogenetic control. Today, scientists utilize smell and red or blue lights to study the human brain and other conditions such as mental illnesses and epilepsy.
The contrast of Dr. Heath’s and Miesenboeck’s Experiments
Robert Heath utilized some of the most barbaric experiments ever in the scientific research field in his psychiatric treatment of African Americans. For instance, Heath used black prisoners for psychosurgery experiments which involved the implantation of electrodes into the brain. Robert Heath and his counterpart Harry Bailey even bragged at some point that they utilized African Americans for experiments because they were cheaper and readily available compared to experimental animals such as cats. The CIA also funded Heath to perform drug experiments that included bulbocapnine. Medical experts warn that the consumption of this drug in large doses produces stupor and catatonia. Nevertheless, Heath tested this drug on African American inmates at a Louisiana prison to determine whether it caused loss of sensitivity to pain, loss of will power, and loss of memory among other issues.
On the contrary, Miesenboeck used animals to experiment with his theory of optogenetic control using the classical conditioning method. Precisely, Miesenboeck used optogenetics to not only develop a method to control the function of human nerve cells but also to advance the understanding of how the brain controls a human’s behavior. Miesenboeck and his team first modified nerve cells to make them react to light. He then flashed a light at a modified neuron in a living organism to mimic a brain impulse and then observed the response.
For instance, Miesenboeck and his team conducted an experiment at Yale University where they modified the neural area of fruit flies to be sensitive to light. The team then beheaded the flies based on the idea that they can survive at least for a day without heads. Miesenoeck discovered that the headless flies flew when he exposed them to light. In other words, Miesenboeck and his team successfully simulated a command from a brain that did not exist anymore. Recently, Meisenboeck conducted an experiment on the networks of nerve cells that controls the memory and perception of an animal at Oxford’s department of neurobiology. Meisenboeck and his team used optogenetics to implant an unpleasant memory in a fruit fly. Meisenboeck observed that the memory helped the animal to remember to avoid a specific door when it moved around. Furthermore, this experiment helped Meisenbock to discover the 12-neuron brain circuit that managed memory formation in a fruit fly. Overall, Meisenboeck has often implied that he hopes the experiments with fruit flies will help him have a broader understanding of the multicellular information processing that is currently evident in single-cell. He further hopes to derive a high-level mechanistic understanding of cell biology that applies to multiple cell types.
Various scientists have focused on neuroscience studies throughout the ages. For instance, Robert Heath performed multiple studies to determine the electrical stimulation of the brain. Heath believed that doctors could utilize ESB to treat homosexuality. Heath worked alongside a multidisciplinary team at Tulane University in New Orleans. They performed surgical operations to insert electrodes in the skulls of more than 60 patients. Geo Miesenboeck later expanded Heath’s research by utilizing the classical conditioning techniques that helped him to discover a less invasive surgical method. Precisely, Meisenboeck used scents and blue lights to influence flies. Nevertheless, some significant differences are evident in the experiments of both researchers. For instance, Heath used barbaric experiments such as the implantation of electrodes into the brain of African American prisoners. On the contrary, Meisonboeck used fruit flies to study the reaction of modified nerve cells in a living organism to light. Overall, Meisenboeck successfully proved the classical conditioning theory when the headless flies flew after sensing light.
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