Robert Galbraith Heath

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For other people named Robert Heath, see Robert Heath (disambiguation).

Robert Galbraith Heath (9 May 1915 – 24 September 1999) was an American psychiatrist. He followed the theory of biological psychiatry that organic defects were the sole source of mental illness,[1] and that consequently mental problems were treatable by physical means. He published 360 papers and published three books.[2][3]

Heath founded the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology at Tulane University, New Orleans, in 1949 and remained its chairman until 1980.[4][5][6] He performed many experiments there involving electrical stimulation of the brain via surgically implanted electrodes. He placed DBS electrodes into the brains of 38 patients or more.[7] [8][9] This work was partially financed by the CIA and the US military.[10]

Heath also experimented with the drug bulbocapnine to induce stupor, using prisoners in the Louisiana State Penitentiary as experimental subjects.[11] He later worked on schizophrenia, which he regarded as an illness with a physical basis.[12]

Gay Conversion Therapy and Patient B-19[edit]

During the course of his experiments in deep brain stimulation, Dr. Heath experimented with gay conversion therapy, and claimed to have successfully converted a homosexual patient, labeled in his paper as Patient B-19. The patient, who had been arrested for marijuanna possession, was implanted with electrodes into the septal region (associated with feelings of pleasure), and many other parts of his brain. The septal electrodes were then stimulated while he was shown heterosexual pornographic material. The patient was later encouraged to have intercourse with a prostitute recruited for the study. As a result, Heath claimed the patient was successfully converted to heterosexuality. This research would be deemed unethical today for a variety of reasons. The patient was recruited for the study while under legal duress, and further implications for the patient's well-being, including indications that electrode stimulation was addictive, were not considered. While it is unlikely this experiment would pass a modern institutional review board, it is the basis of gay conversion therapy practices that are still performed today.[13][14][15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Heath, R.G. (1961) Reappraisal of biological aspects of psychiatry. Journal of Neuropsychiatry 3: 1-11.
  2. ^ Robert Galbraith Heath, MD
  3. ^ 165 articles of Dr. R.G. Heath at the National Center for Biotechnology Information
  4. ^ In Memoriam: Robert Galbraith Heath, MD, DMSci (1915–1999). Neurology 54(2): 286.
  5. ^ "Chronic cerebellar stimulation in the modulation of behavior" Acta Neurol Latinoam. 1980;26(3):143-53. PMID 6807046. Correa AJ, Llewellyn RC, Epps J, Jarrott D, Eiswirth C, Heath RG.
  6. ^ "The cerebellar pacemaker for intractable behavioral disorders and epilepsy:followup" Biol Psychiatry. 1980 Apr;15(2):243-56. Authors Heath RG, Llewellyn RC, Rouchell AM. PMID 7417614
  7. ^ "A roentgenographic stereotaxic technique for implanting and maintaining electrodes in the brain of man" Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology Volume 9, Issue 3, August 1957
  8. ^ Heath, R.G. (1963) Electrical self-stimulation of the brain in man. American Journal of Psychiatry 120: 571-577.
  9. ^ Moan, C.E., & Heath, R.G. (1972) Septal stimulation for the initiation of heterosexual activity in a homosexual male. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry 3: 23-30.
  10. ^ "Robert Heath at Wireheading". 1977-08-02. Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  11. ^ Scheflin, A.W. & Opton, E.M. (1978) The Mind Manipulators: a non-fiction account. (Paddington Press: New York) ISBN 0-448-22977-3 pp. 314-315.
  12. ^ Heath, R.G. (1967) Schizophrenia: pathogenetic theories. International Journal of Psychiatry 3(5): 407-10.
  13. ^ 2.HEATH, R. PLEASURE AND BRAIN ACTIVITY IN MAN. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 154, 3-18 (1972).
  14. ^ 3.Horgan, J. What Are Science's Ugliest Experiments?. Scientific American Blog Network (2016). at <>
  15. ^ Robert Colvile (5 July 2016). "The 'gay cure' experiments that were written out of scientific history". Mosaic Science. 

External links[edit]