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". . .Tulane University would admit qualified students regardless of race or color if it were legally permissible to do so."
Changing People's Minds, Tulane Style

A Tale From Two Perspectives

In the 1950's, Tulane psychiatrist Robert G. Heath and coworkers engaged in studies of the human brain that were sponsored by U.S. government agencies and included black prisoners among its experimental subjects.  What follows are two views of those studies from very different perspectives.
 

PERSPECTIVE A
                                       
The implications of military support for pure science were especially troubling in the case of psychiatrist Robert G. Heath's bold experiments into the etiology of schizophrenia. Heath joined Tulane's faculty in 1949 after participating in Columbia University's Greystone Project, a study of the use of topectomy (the removal of small portions of the brain's frontal cortex) as an alternative to the more radical procedures of prefrontal or transorbital lobotomy. At Tulane, Heath and the multidisciplinary research team that worked under his direction concentrated on the region deep within the brain containing the limbic system, a group of interconnected structures including the amygdala, the hippocampus, and the septum, which generate feelings of pleasure, pain, joy, anger, sexual arousal, and other powerful emotions. Beginning in 1950, Heath and his colleagues performed surgical operations upon a number of mental patients in order to implant electrodes and small tubes into the brain's emotional core. Subsequent EEG recordings made during electrical or chemical stimulation of the selected subcortical areas provided a clearer picture of the specific circuitry and the neurochemical processes involved in schizophrenia and other psychotic conditions. The same techniques of electrical and chemical stimulation used to gather experimental data were also employed for therapeutic purposes on patients previously regarded as untreatable. Over the span of a quarter century, Heath and his colleagues would operate on more than sixty patients, implanting as many as 125 electrodes in the skull of a single individual and developing methods that allowed electrodes to remain in place for years at a time. Eventually, technological innovations such as external push-button self-stimulators and miniature surgically implanted electrical pacemakers were employed as therapeutic devices. [1]

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Army funding for the LSD and mescaline trials that Heath and his colleagues conducted brought the conflict between military and civilian science into sharp relief. The army contract ran for five years and contributed a total of roughly $60,000 to the Tulane project. The few surviving army records indicate that experimental data was supplied for six subjects — exactly the number reported by Monroe, Heath, Mickle, and Llewellyn in their 1957 article, "Correlation of Rhinencephalic Electrograms with Behavior: A Study of Humans under the Influence of LSD and Mescaline." From a scientific and medical standpoint, the experiments on institutionalized schizophrenics who had not responded to previous treatments represented an effort to develop a controlled method of correlating "behavior" — in this case temporary psychotic symptoms induced by specific drugs — with EEG recordings from deep electrodes. The research could logically be seen as a step toward the development of improved therapeutic methods. However, the army's interest in the effects of LSD and mescaline on human beings could scarcely be described as springing from therapeutic or humanitarian concerns. What was at issue in the situation was not so much the autonomy of individual investigators as the moral integrity of medical science. No one, presumably, would seek to hold scientists accountable for the use or misuse of their discoveries by outside parties with whom they were professionally uninvolved. But a $60,000 military contract represented professional involvement of more than an incidental nature. This fact became all too apparent in 1956, when CIA agents approached Heath to conduct human and animal tests of a substance called bulbocapnine that the Soviets were also testing for potential mind control applications. In 1957, Heath tested the drug on several monkeys and one human — apparently a prisoner in the state penitentiary at Angola, Louisiana — and found it to produce symptoms similar to alcohol intoxication. Some twenty-one years would elapse before the tests became public knowledge at Tulane, following disclosures in [the Aug. 2, 1977 issue of] the New York Times. [2]

References
  1. Clarence L. Mohr and Joseph E. Gordon, Tulane: The Emergence of a Modern University, 1945 – 1980, Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 2001, p. 119.

  2. Ibid., p. 123.
PERSPECTIVE B
                                       
Psychiatric "treatment" of African Americans has included some of the most barbaric experiments ever carried out in the name of "scientific" research — and not very long ago. In the 1950s in New Orleans, black prisoners were used for psychosurgery experiments which involved electrodes being implanted into the brain. The experiments were conducted by psychiatrist Dr. Robert Heath from Tulane University and an Australian psychiatrist, Dr. Harry Bailey, who boasted in a lecture to nurses 20 years later that the two psychiatrists had used blacks because it was "cheaper to use Niggers than cats because they were everywhere and cheap experimental animals."

Heath had also been funded by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to carry out drug experiments which included LSD and a drug called bulbocapnine, which in large doses produced "catatonia and stupor." Heath tested the drug on African American prisoners at the Louisiana State Penitentiary. According to one memo, the CIA sought information as to whether the drug could cause "loss of speech, loss of sensitivity to pain, loss of memory, loss of will power and an increase in toxicity in persons with a weak type of central nervous system."

Endnotes

Exerpted from: "Psychiatric Oppression of African Americans," Citizens Commission on Human Rights (an organ of the Church of Scientology), http://www.cchr.org/ racism/pooaa1.htm, accessed May 25, 2004.  (Note:  Remove space from URL.)

See also: "Black Hearts in White Coats," Freedom Magazine, Church of Scientology, http://www.freedommag.org/ english/vol36i1/page11b.htm, accessed June 8, 2004.  (Note:  Remove space from URL.)


Tulane fully embraced the work of Heath and in 1985 awarded him an honorary Doctor of Science degree and created an endowed chair in his honor.  In 2004, the occupant of the Robert G. Heath Chair of Psychiatry/Neurology was Dr. Daniel K. Winstead.  Tulane further extended its tribute to Heath by establishing the Heath Endowed Lectureship in Psychiatry and Neurology in 1993.  Heath died September 21, 1999 in St. Petersburg, Florida, at 84.

For further information about Heath's mind control experiments at Tulane, see Valerie Wolf's 1995 interview and the additional links there.

Reference

Tulane Medicine, Winter, 1999, p. 29.
See also: "Dr. Robert G. Heath, Researcher, Educator," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, September 23, 1999, p. B-4 (Obituary).


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