How We Manipulate Our Brains With Electricity

This episode is sponsored by Audible. To get started, go to
or text “SciShowPsych” to 500 500. {♫Intro♫} It’s a classic sci-fi plot device: A chip
is implanted into someone’s brain, and with a jolt of electricity, their brain is suddenly
under someone else’s control. As with all good sci-fi, this is mostly fiction. But there is a bit of real science in there. Obviously, you can’t just plant a chip in
someone’s head and start manipulating their thoughts and behavior. But doctors and scientists can use electricity
to activate or inhibit certain parts of the brain, to help treat serious medical conditions
or mental disorders. These treatments have changed the lives of
many patients–especially those who may not have responded well to other treatments like
medications or psychotherapy. Using electricity as a medical treatment is
not new: We’ve known for centuries that electricity can have an effect on brain and
nerve function. But, for a long time, we did not understand why For example, ancient Romans were known to
actually use an electric fish — a kind of ray known as Torpedo nobiliana — to treat patients with a variety of symptoms, from headaches to seizures. just put the fish on you The ray was known to stun anything that came
in contact with it, so the medical professionals of the time would just put this ray on the
heads of their patients to numb their symptoms. Put a fish on it! How do we know that they didn’t know why
this worked? Because they sometimes used the same technique
to treat … hemorrhoids. Just put a fish on it! Fast forward to the nineteenth century, when
physicians started experimenting with applying electricity to the exposed human brain. One physician experimented on the exposed
cerebral cortices of decapitated prisoners. He found that by stimulating the surface of the cortex with electricity, he could cause
the face to actually grimace. Gruesome as it was, this at least provided
some new scientific insights. It proved that the brain could be directly
stimulated with electricity. Scientists were starting to learn a very important
truth: the human nervous system relies on electricity to function. Nerve cells use electricity and chemicals
to communicate with one another, transmitting information like little messages throughout
your body and brain. Your body depends on these electrical signals
to do just about everything. From smiling to walking, processing
memories or feelings, it all comes back to electrical signals in the brain. Beginning in the nineteen thirties, physicians
built on this knowledge, developing something known as the Montreal Procedure to help treat
epilepsy patients. This method used an electrical probe to directly
stimulate different parts of a patient’s cerebral cortex. After removing a section of a patient’s
skull, a physician would use the probe to electrically trigger different sections of
the brain. While the patient was awake and providing
feedback, the physician would use the probe to stimulate different parts of the brain
— which would produce sensations like flashing lights or smells that the patient could report. Epileptic patients sometimes experience “auras” before the onset of a seizure. These “auras” might involve very particular sensations or perceptions — like the smell
of burnt toast, for example. If the patient reported something similar
to their seizure aura as a result of the electrical stimulation, the doctor knew they’d found
the part of the brain causing the seizures. And they could remove or destroy a small section
of tissue there. Freaky as it sounds, this often successfully
reduced the patient’s risk of seizures. And the Montreal Procedure was also used to
map out the brain, notably the sensory and motor cortices. By the second half of the twentieth century,
physicians were learning that certain types of electrical stimulation were especially
useful in treating symptoms related to neurological movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease. Though it’s still not fully understood,
it’s believed that electrical stimulation affects the way nerve cells in the brain,
called neurons, communicate with one another. For example, Deep Brain Stimulation, or DBS
for short, is often used to treat symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease. Electrodes are planted deep within the patient’s
brain. These electrodes release controlled electrical
signals, and these messages may encourage the blrain to release an energy-carrying molecule
we all use, ATP. [adenosine triphosphate] As the brain releases ATP, a chemical called
adenosine gradually builds up, initiating a process that helps to slow nerve signals
related to uncontrollable movements, like tremors. Though it was originally approved to help
treat Parkinson’s disease, DBS may also help with treating symptoms related to depression
or obsessive-compulsive disorder, since DBS can help with regulating brain activity. By the sixties and seventies, researchers
were starting to experiment with electrical implants within the brain to help treat chronic
pain, epilepsy and other neurological disorders. But most of these implants weren’t practical,
because they needed bulky external power sources. However, the invention of the cardiac pacemaker
in the nineteen sixties showed that it was possible to place a mobile power supply into
a person’s body safely. With DBS currently, for example, the electrodes
planted in a patient’s brain are controlled by a small power source that’s placed in
a patient’s chest. Today, a number of different brain-stimulation
therapies are used to help treat a variety of disorders. Aside from DBS, there is also electroconvulsive
therapy, or ECT. This method is used to treat disorders like
depression and schizophrenia. With ECT, an electric current passes through
electrodes on a patient’s scalp, triggering the brain to cause a brief seizure. We’re still not sure how ECT works in the
brain, but it may involve changes in both neurotransmitters like dopamine and the brain’s
stress response. Likewise, a technique known as vagus nerve
stimulation uses electrical pulses to stimulate the parts of the brain that are associated
with seizures, to treat epilepsy. It can also be used in other cases, like severe
depression. In this case, the pulses come from a device
implanted in the patient’s chest and stimulate the left vagus nerve, which passes a signal
on to the brain. This nerve is part of the control system that
helps to regulate involuntary actions, like heart rate. It also acts like a freeway of sorts, sharing
information from the brain to the heart, abdomen, lungs, and neck and back again. These pulses may help control or limit the
effects of seizures by spurring neurons to release neurotransmitters that help to modify
the excitability of certain cells, lessening or even stopping seizures. Electrical brain implants might sound like
science fiction, but these techniques are grounded in pure reality. Brain stimulation techniques have radically
improved how physicians treat neurological and mental-health conditions. As these technologies improve, neuroscientists
will hopefully continue to develop more effective, and less invasive, treatments, truly changing
the lives of countless people around the world. Not all of us have medical needs serious
enough to warrant electrodes in our brains. But for those of us who like to manipulate
our minds in more conventional ways, we’re lucky to have audiobooks. Compelling stories lets us experience new
worlds, new ideas, and new people — and Audible can hook you up. I recently have been listening to the work
of Becky Chambers. The first installment in the series is called
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. It’s beautiful, it’s human, it’s peculiar, it’s just everything that I want from a story
that’s going to give me insight into people, but also not be terribly stressful. And, it’s just a great sci-fi story! And yes, they can connect their brains to
computers. Audible also makes original content These are exclusive audio titles created by
celebrated storytellers from worlds as diverse as sci-fi, journalism, literature, and more. And so you can grab titles from Becky Chambers or from just about any author you like in the the largest collection of audiobooks on the
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plus 2 Audible Originals when you try Audible for 30 days. Visit or text “SciShowPSYCH”
to 500 500 to try it out! {♫Outro♫}

73 thoughts on “How We Manipulate Our Brains With Electricity

  1. Tip from a friend: look up movies of people on who transcranial manipulation is applied.
    It's f*ing funny 😂😂

  2. "Put a fish on it" is going to be my sarcastic medical advice when people tell me about their problems from now on.

  3. Our minds are a complex and fragile symphony of electro-chemical patterns that eventually after years of development and learning lead to us as human beings. If that doesn't blow your mind I don't know what will.

  4. To be clear,it has to be a live electric ray.Taping your gold fish to your forehead will help neither you or your pet.

  5. 5:05 Do I want to ask how one gets that wire to the top of the head without permanently occupying a major blood vessel?

  6. ECT works the same way a concussion does, broadly, unpredictably, dangerously. ECT is a joke and is only used when nothing else works. As an athiest, I recommend prayer before ECT. It's up there with lobotomy (ECT not prayer).

    ECT is never a good solution and rarely helpful.

  7. Wow… last night I was just researching tms and ect…. these videos always post a day after I research something new…

  8. 5:00 as long as it's not made from black market electronic trash
    5:43 that's the nerve gut bacteria travels up by to cause parkinson

  9. Michael Persinger also did some intesting experiements with "the god helmet"- a helmet rigged to give off a tunable EM field, which can induce emotional changes, fear , panic,even sexual sensantations, feelings of spiritual revelation, or flat-out halucinations.

  10. So the good doctor Frankenstein was onto something with his lightning based medical experiments. I'm certain this would bring him no end of joy.

  11. When you realize we are living in a sci-fi world with cyborgs, it just happened so slowly it feels normal to us.

  12. I'd love to see you do a vid on Trans-cranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) It's a relatively new way of treating medication resistant depression that's showing a lot of promise. The basic idea is using electro-magnetic fields to non-invasively stimulate blood flow to targeted areas of the brain. I know someone who just signed up to participate in a study for it so when I saw the title of this vid I thought you were going to mention it and got all excited 🙂

  13. Why are connect of vibes energy flowing link to emotion . Emotional atmosphere conecpt of spirit . considered junk Science. Because they curalate chemicals to Emoticons. And can also curalate battery acid to a battery charge . What about the same chemical siretonin being the same chemical linked to Anger . pleasure. Hunger and pain and Sexuality the difference is the Electrical wavelength riding the chemicals. Testosterone is just fuel. Lot most Violent people or perverted people have low testosterone. .and also if memories are chemical imprints

  14. Funny how you made fun of people for not knowing why the fish worked and with things like that there is an underlining scoffing that it shouldn't of been used if you didn't know how it worked ,but you commend electric shock therapy ,not knowing how it works…

  15. patient: "I'm bleeding internally…"
    doctor: 🤔 "Put at fish on it!" 😎
    patient: 😃 "You're the best doc!"
    doctor: "All in a days work." 😎

    patient: [Day 1] ^w^

    patient: [Day 2] 💀

    doctor: 🤯


  17. Ive known about the Montreal procedure since I was a kid.
    The Montreal procedure was featured on something called heritage minutes, they were aired on Canadian television .
    They lasted a minute, showing Moments from Canadian history.
    They also aired funny PSAs, my favorite is the house hippo.
    PS, Canada also invented the electron microscope.

  18. I have a friend with a deep brain stimulation implant to help with his Parkinson's, and it's really amazing how much it has helped him get his life back. He brags about being able to play the guitar again. It's also really interesting to me that he can tune the device, it has different settings that optimize different functions like speaking better or walking better apparently. I'd be really interested to see a more in depth sci show episode on how exactly deep brain stimulation electrodes function.

  19. Get your first audiobook and 2 Audible originals free when you try Audible for 30 days visit or text ‘scishowpsych’ to 500 500!

  20. Why no mention of the abhorrent misuse of electro-shock therapy and how it made people just this side of slime mold?

  21. i was diagnosed with tourette syndrome, OCD and later aspergers syndrome/autism spectrum disorder. when i lived in a psych ward for the sixth time (about a year ago) i was given electro convulsive therapy 3 times a week, then twice a week then once… i’m currently taking it once every 4 weeks. it works a lot better for me than the rispiridone and clomipramine i used to take. the thing is though, somewhere along that first and second week of taking electro convulsive therapy, my mind went into a sort of mania, connecting concepts and thoughts together in ways that made little sense to anyone else. i was writing pages upon pages of diagrams and miniature essays, but the very first concept that occured to me all at once was the strangest of all (i might never forget it): before the invention of timekeeping, when it was night-time and one of us was facing towards the moon in the night sky, we would look at that person’s eyebrows above their eyes and see their subtle subconscious eyebrow movements to determine the place and rotation of the moon and therefor the time of night. ever since then, we still subconsciously transmit messages to eachother thru the movements of our eyebrows about what time it is based on the light above and around us. weird huh? other thoughts i had were about the line going from height to width to depth to time to gravity and onward being itself a metadimension, and later on i thought about that metadimension having a perpendicular metadimension like width has height.

  22. something I find interesting and disturbing at the same time: you know those psychiatric patients who insist on having learnt some ridiculous truth(s) about our world…. what if they're right?

  23. There is also the device called an alphastim. I was prescribed one and it uses ear clips that allow an electrical current to go through your brain. It claims it's for anxiety, depression and insomnia, they also use it to help with severe PTSD symptoms

  24. It's possible that the military has developed the ability to install chips into brains and control people. It has tremendous military potential, and if they had succeeded there's no way they'd tell the public. Only when the iPort is released to the common market and everyone is wirelessly connecting to the internet directly will they make it known, like it's a recent discovery. Even if they didn't turn the soldier into a mindless zombie they could do subtle stuff, like turn off empathy so they can kill without taking emotional trauma. The perfect assassin. If it hasn't yet been developed to this level, I'm sure someone is working on it. There's just too much incentive to world powers. A group of altered assassins would be like 20 Christma mornings experienced as a small rich child rolled into one moment for someone like Putin, or any of the warmonger type in our own govt

  25. One of my students has a VNS, and it's come in handy more than once, especially when he's had seizures that impact his ability to breathe.

  26. Who own this technology the CIA and the Mossad, the new world order by Bush the father in the 80s..
    They put electronic chip in kids brain after when they got born including Arabs for spying, they can read what you are thinking about and see shat you are seeing hear what you are hearing, they control your body from that chip..
    Yitzhak Rabin Ariel Sharon died because of that project Obama Trump been made from that project 9/11 al jazeera google facebook youtube drones tsunami and the arab spring are from that project..

  27. Love this video! They brought up the VNS! I had mine place in 2017 and my seizures have gone down significantly!!!!!

  28. Headaches? Put a fish on it!

    Depression? Put a fish on it!

    Organ failure? Just PUT A FISH ON IT!™

  29. This one hit close to home. Multiple people I'm very close to are considering or have considered DBS or VNS for various disorders. The doctors are hopeful for the one currently undergoing initial testing, so while it's scary, that's a bit of a comfort. She's been dealing with worsening seizures longer than I've been alive, and in the last few years, a few have landed her in the hospital. Since we're in the US, whether or not she can get her meds is at the whim of her insurance company, so I guess this is a good change.

  30. Just know that pacemakers explode so have them removed before cremation of human or pet. If you live in Illinois, U of I takes donated pacemakers for pet parents on limited funds

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