Excerpts from:



The Mind Stealers

Psychosurgery and Mind Control


Samuel Chavkin

Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1978



“For many years, neurologists have measured the electrical activity of the brain with electrodes attached to the scalp . . . Now by implanting tiny electrodes deep within the brain, electrical activity can be followed in areas that cannot be measured from the surface of the scalp.” ...

Dr. West declared, “It is even possible to record bioelectrical changes in the brains of freely moving subjects, through the use of remote monitoring techniques.” ... [p. 98]

The man sitting next to you at a lunch counter … is under constant surveillance—24 hours a day—even though there is no policeman outside eying him through the window and no informant huddling in a doorway ready to shadow him the moment he leaves the restaurant. His every move within a radius of twenty miles is known to the authorities. And a lot more than that is known to them: for instance, his respiration rate, his adrenal output, his heart rate. Thanks to the latest developments relating to psychosurgery, even his brain wave activity can be monitored by remote control.

This combined intelligence, when relayed to a central computer, will enable it to … his whereabouts are automatically flashed to the computer. ... [p. 139]

But the technology is here and the possibility of implementing such surveillance is at hand. As far back as nine years ago, a dress rehearsal of sorts, on a very limited basis, was tried in Boston with sixteen volunteers, several of them borderline juvenile delinquents. Each was equipped with two boxes, roughly the size and shape of a paperback book, which were strapped to their chests underneath their shirts. One box contained a set of batteries and the other a transmitter that sent out signals coded to each individual wearer.

Repeater stations on rooftops or in places where these volunteers were employed picked up the signals, which were conveyed to a central console at a frequency range from 90 seconds to half an hour or more. Each signal, visualized on a televisionlike screen, indicated the exact location of one of the volunteers. ...

The concept of tracking parolees via telemetry basically originates with Dr. Ralph K. Schwitzgebel, who designed the Boston experiment and who has devoted much of his adult life to the study of behavior technology … He has taught at Harvard Law School, but he also holds a degree in psychology and is currently teaching that subject at California Lutheran College. ... [p. 140]

For the parolee, as unattractive as the prospect is—being under constant vigil, with the police monitoring his every breath and thought—Dr. Schwitzgebel contends that it is still a more desirable alternative than confinement in what are admittedly some of the worst prisons in the world.

Dr. Schwitzgebel concedes that the danger that telemetric surveillance could be abused is always present. ...

These devices would no longer be as cumbersome as those used in Dr. Schwitzgebel’s early experiments in Boston. ... [p. 141]

For instance, Dr. D. N. Michael, testifying before a congressional subcommittee investigating the perils of “Computer Invasion of Privacy,” envisaged a surveillance system that would control mental patients when released from an institution:


It is not impossible to imagine that parolees will check in and be monitored by transmitters embedded in their flesh, reporting their whereabouts in code and automatically as they pass receiving stations (perhaps like fireboxes) systematically deployed over the country as part of one computer-monitored network. We may well reach the point where it will be permissible to allow some emotionally ill people the freedom of the streets, providing they are effectively “defused” through chemical agents. The task, then, for the computer-linked sensors would be to telemeter, not their emotional states, but simply the sufficiency of concentration of the chemical agent to insure an acceptable emotional state . . . I am not prepared to speculate whether such a situation would increase or decrease the personal freedom of the emotionally ill person.


The most far-reaching proposals for surveillance and behavior control may come out of the laboratories of such neurophysiologists as Dr. José M. R. Delgado, for many years professor of physiology at Yale.

Dr. Delgado, … is now involved in the development of so-called brain pacemakers that on radio command will stimulate certain sections of the brain to bring about a predetermined pattern of behavior. ...

The famous neurophysiologist, who is frequently at the center of controversy because of his somewhat sensational ideas for the manipulation of brain function and his innovative electronic instruments with which to do the manipulation, spoke with quiet conviction as he pointed to a small object in the palm of his right hand. The size of a thick, fifty-cent piece, it was imprinted with purplish red circuitry. He describes the device as a “radio link for wireless communication between the brain and a computer.” He named it “stimoceiver” because it can stimulate certain sections of the brain when it receives radio signals of what the targets should be. [pp. 144-145]

He told me that once the stimoceiver is embedded under the scalp, with tiny electrodes extending from it into the limbic system of the brain, it will go into action on radio command. This device, he said, now has four channels, which means that it could reach out to that many sections of the brain. “Sometime soon,” he said, “we shall have maybe twenty such channels.” Eventually “these appliances could remain implanted in the person’s head forever—he could carry this instrument for life, if necessary.” The energy to activate this device would be supplied by radio frequency externally and therefore there would be no need for batteries.

The purpose of all this? Dr. Delgado feels this development represents a great breakthrough in the treatment of a variety of conditions, such as pain, emotional illness, and epilepsy. It is based on the principle of having one section of the brain “counter” the activity of another section. “We know that perception, decision making, learning, and other activities may be accompanied by detectable electrical phenomena,” he recently wrote. “We also know that electrical stimulation of the brain may induce or modify a variety of autonomic, somatic and mental manifestations.” So why not apply this knowledge in controlling brain phenomena at will? By way of example, Delgado cites a situation in which an epileptic attack is about to begin. A spindling pattern of electroencephalograms is fired off by a defective amygdala nucleus of the brain, presumed to be the augury for such an attack. These EEG signals are picked up by the in-dwelling electrodes and fed into the stimoceiver, which in turn signals the programmed computer. The computer then orders the stimoceiver to stimulate the anterior lobe of the cerebellum, which apparently inhibits such an attack. All this takes place within fractions of seconds.

Following this logic, and accepting the technological feasibility of programming behavioral patterns, it becomes entirely possible for the computer to be used to stymie any kind of behavior not consistent with norms set by legislators or law-enforcement authorities. ... [p. 146]

Professor Fried says, “the subject appears free to perform the same actions as others and to enter the same relations, but in fact an important element of autonomy, of control over his environment is missing: he cannot be private.” ...

There is another aspect to electronic monitoring which intensifies the insidiousness of this technique—it forces an individual to betray others with whom he or she may become intimate. Unaware of the continuous surveillance, they may find themselves confiding in the parolee certain information about themselves which automatically becomes part of the police record, once again in violation of constitutional safeguards to privacy. [pp. 151-152]