José Manuel Rodriguez Delgado

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"Jose Delgado" redirects here. For the comic book character, see Gangbuster.
José Manuel Rodríguez Delgado
Born (1915-08-08)8 August 1915
Ronda, Spain
Died 15 September 2011(2011-09-15) (aged 96)
San Diego, California
Residence Madrid
Fields Neuroscience, Physiology, Psychiatry
Institutions Yale University
Alma mater University of Madrid
Cajal Institute
Yale University
Known for Stimoceiver
Influences Santiago Ramón y Cajal
John Fultun

José Manuel Rodríguez Delgado (August 8, 1915 – September 15, 2011) was a Spanish professor of physiology at Yale University, famed for his research into mind control through electrical stimulation of regions in the brain. His work opened many doors to the understanding of brain activity with the use of electrical stimuli.[1]


Delgado was born in Ronda, in the province of Málaga, Spain in 1915. He received a Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Madrid just before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. During the Spanish Civil War he joined the Republican side and served as a medical corpsman on the Republican side while he was a medical student. Delgado was held in a concentration camp for five months after the war ended.[2] After serving in the camp, he had to repeat his M.D. degree, and then took a Ph.D. at the Cajal Institute in Madrid.

Delgado's father was an eye doctor and he had planned to follow in his footsteps. However, once he discovered the writings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal who was a Nobel laureate in 1906 and having spent some time in a physiology laboratory, Delgado no longer wanted to be an eye doctor. Delgado became captivated by "the many mysteries of the brain. How little was known then. How little is known now!”[2]

In 1946 Delgado won a fellowship at Yale University in the department of physiology under the direction of John Fultun. In 1950, Delgado accepted a position in the physiology department which at the time was headed by John Fulton. By 1952, he had co-authored his first paper on implanting electrodes into humans.[2]

The Spanish minister of Education, Villar Palasí, asked Delgado to help organize a new medical school at the Autonomous University of Madrid. Delgado accepted Palasí's proposal and relocated to Spain with his wife and two children in 1974.[2]

Delgado had last moved with his wife, Caroline, to San Diego, California before his death on September 15, 2011.[2]


Delgado's research interests centered on the use of electrical signals to evoke responses in the brain. His earliest work was with cats, but he later did experiments with monkeys and humans, including psychiatric patients.

Much of Delgado's work was with an invention he called a stimoceiver, a radio which joined a stimulator of brain waves with a receiver which monitored E.E.G. waves and sent them back on separate radio channels. Some of these stimoceivers were as small as half-dollars. This allowed the subject of the experiment full freedom of movement while allowing the experimenter to control the experiment. This was a great improvement from his early equipment which included implanted electrodes whose wires ran from the brain to bulky equipment that both recorded data and delivered the desired electrical charges to the brain. This early equipment, while not allowing for a free range of movement, was also the cause of infection in many subjects.[3]

The stimoceiver could be used to stimulate emotions and control behavior. According to Delgado, "Radio Stimulation of different points in the amygdala and hippocampus in the four patients produced a variety of effects, including pleasant sensations, elation, deep, thoughtful concentration, odd feelings, super relaxation, colored visions, and other responses." Delgado stated that "brain transmitters can remain in a person's head for life. The energy to activate the brain transmitter is transmitted by way of radio frequencies."[4]

Using the stimoceiver, Delgado found that he could not only elicit emotions, but he could also elicit specific physical reactions. These specific physical reactions, such as the movement of a limb or the clenching of a fist, were achieved when Delgado stimulated the motor cortex. A human whose implants were stimulated to produce a reaction were unable to resist the reaction and so one patient said “I guess, doctor, that your electricity is stronger than my will”. Some consider one of Delgado's most promising finds is that of an area called the septum within the limbic region. This area, when stimulated by Delgado, produced feelings of strong euphoria. These euphoric feelings were sometimes strong enough to overcome physical pain and depression.[2]

Delgado created many inventions and was called a “technological wizard” by one of his Yale colleagues. Other than the stimoceiver, Delgado also created a "chemitrode" which was an implantable device that released controlled amounts of a drug into specific brain areas. Delgado also invented an early version of what is now a cardiac pacemaker.[2]

In Rhode Island, Delgado did some work at what is now a closed mental hospital. He chose patients who were "desperately ill patients whose disorders had resisted all previous treatments" and implanted electrodes in about 25 of them. Most of these patients were either schizophrenics or epileptics. To determine the best placement of electrodes within the human patients, Delgado initially looked to the work of Wilder Penfield, who studied epileptics' brains in the 1930s, as well as earlier animal experiments, and studies of brain-damaged people.[2]

The most famous example of the stimoceiver in action occurred at a Cordoba bull breeding ranch. Delgado stepped into the ring with a bull which had had a stimoceiver implanted within its brain. The bull charged Delgado, who pressed a remote control button which caused the bull to stop its charge. Always one for theatrics, he taped this stunt and it can be seen today.[5] The region of the brain Delgado stimulated when he pressed the hand-held transmitter was the caudate nucleus. This region was chosen to be stimulated because the caudate nucleus is involved in controlling voluntary movements.[2] Delgado claimed that the stimulus caused the bull to lose its aggressive instinct.

Although the bull incident was widely mentioned in the popular media, Delgado believed that his experiment with a female chimpanzee named Paddy was more significant. Paddy was fitted with a stimoceiver linked to a computer that detected the brain signal called a spindle which was emitted by her part of the brain called the amygdala. When the spindle was recognized, the stimoceiver sent a signal to the central gray area of Paddy's brain, producing an 'aversive reaction'. In this case, the aversive reaction was an unpleasant or painful feeling. The result of the aversive reaction to the stimulus was a negative feedback to the brain.[2] Within hours her brain was producing fewer spindles as a result of the negative feedback.[6] As a result, Paddy became “quieter, less attentive and less motivated during behavioral testing”. Although Paddy's reaction was not exactly ideal, Delgado hypothesized that the method used on Paddy could be used on others to stop panic attacks, seizures, and other disorders controlled by certain signals within the brain.[2] [7][8]


Jose Delgado authored 134 scientific publications within two decades (1950-1970) on electrical stimulation on cats, monkeys and patients - psychotic and non-psychotic. In 1963, New York Times featured his experiments on their front page. Delgado had implanted a stimoceiver in the caudate nucleus of a fighting bull. He could stop the animal mid-way that would come running towards a waving red flag.[9]

He was invited to write his book Physical Control of the Mind: Toward a Psychocivilised Society as the forty-first volume in a series entitled World Perspectives edited by Ruth Nanda Anshen. In it Delgado has discussed how we have managed to tame and civilize our surrounding nature, arguing that now it was time to civilize our inner being. The book has been a centre of controversy since its release.[1] The tone of the book was challenging and the philosophical speculations went beyond the data. Its intent was to encourage less cruelty, and a more benevolent, happier, better man, however it clashed religious sentiments.

Jose continued to publish his research and philosophical ideas through articles and books for the next quarter century. He in all wrote over 500 articles and six books. His final book in 1989, was named Happiness and had 14 editions.[9]


  • José Manuel Rodriguez Delgado (1969). Physical Control of the Mind: Toward a Psychocivilized Society. Harper and Row. ISBN 0-06-090208-6. 

In Media[edit]

  • The story of Delgado's mind control research was featured in an episode of Dark Matters: Twisted But True in a segment entitled "Human Puppets" as well as the controversy sparked by his research.
  • Delgado, then aged 91, was also featured in person in a 2006 episode of the BBC documentary series Horizon, "Human v2.0".


  1. ^ a b Blackwell, Barry (2012). Bits and Pieces: A Shrunken Life. Xlibris. pp. 228–230. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Horgan, John (October 2005). "The Forgotten Era of Brain". Scientific American: 66–73. 
  3. ^ Horgan, John (October 2005). "The Forgotten Era of Brain Chips". Scientific American: 66–73. 
  4. ^ Delgado, Jose M.; et al Intracerebral Radio Stimulation and recording in Completely Free Patients, Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, Vol 147(4), 1968, 329-340.
  5. ^ "Jose Delgado and his bull story". March 8, 2010. Retrieved 24 January 2013. 
  6. ^ Physical Control of the Mind: Toward a Psychocivilized Society by Jose M. Delgado - Chapter 11
  7. ^ Delgado later learned he could duplicate the results he got with the stimoceiver without any implants at all, using only specific types of electromagnetic radiation interacting with the brain. He lamented he didn't have access to the technology when Franco was in power, as it would have allowed him to control the dictator at a distance.
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ a b Blackwell, Barry. "Obituary". Retrieved 25 June 2013. 

Further reading[edit]


  • Maggie Scarf (1971-11-25). "Brain Researcher Jose Delgado Asks "What Kind of Humans Would We Like to Construct?"". New York Times. 
  • Delgado JM (1977–1978). "Instrumentation, working hypotheses, and clinical aspects of neurostimulation". Applied Neurophysiology 40 (2–4): 88–110. doi:10.1159/000102436. PMID 101139. 


  • Elliot S. Valenstein (1973). Brain Control: A Critical Examination of Brain Stimulation and Psychosurgery. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-89784-1. 

External links[edit]