Manic Monday: Electroshock and LSD: Child Experiments

In the 1950s, Tulane University doctors performed a craniotomy on a 17-year-old girl who was considered “retarded.” In childhood, she had this label put on her, and in adolescence, she was further diagnoses as schizophrenic. The craniotomy, therefore, was a treatment for her schizophrenia. An incision was made through her cortex via the lateral ventricle, and an electrode was placed in the septal region of her brain. (It’s not the electrode that’s an issue, here, because even modern treatments, like deep brain stimulation, utilize electrodes as treatments for, say, Parkinson’s Disease).

With the girl still conscious (the craniotomy was performed under general anesthesia, however), a series of five currents of increasing intensity was sent through the electrode and into her brain. Initially, there were no immediate behavioral or physical responses. However, after the fifth current, the girl suffered generalized convulsions, and the treatment was suspended. For the next 24 hours, the convulsions continued and the girl was then comatose for two days. Interestingly, two weeks after the treatment, she had improved, and in four months, she was discharged from the hospital and sent back home. Though it was considered that her schizophrenia had improved, 1.5 years later, she was still considered to be suffering from the disease.

This was one of a study involving 19 cases of schizophrenia, and over 100 patients, performed by Tulane University doctors. The experiments spanned 30 years, and were used to “treat” various mental disorders. This occurred despite the general controversy surrounding the studies.

Tulane University was not the first or only to perform these electroshock therapies.

Dr. Lauretta Bender of the infamous Bellevue Hospital in New York City experimented with children who had been diagnosed as “autistic schizophrenic.” She had over 100 child patients, ranging in age from 3 to 12. Some reports indicate that she had closer to 200 of these child patients.

Dr. Bender had reported good, positive results with her electroshock therapies. Privately, however, she was disappointed and frustrated with the results, as some of her patients had actually worsened. In fact, one case involved a little boy who was, before the shock treatments, shy, and after, violent and aggressive. In fact, a separate 1954 study of 50 of Dr. Bender’s patients conducted by two psychologists had found that her patients were in worse conditions after the treatments, than they were before.

Interestingly, one of the patients studied was the son of Jacqueline Susann, author of the “Valley of the Dolls.” Susanna’s son was diagnosed with autism, and at age 3, Dr. Bender convinced the boy’s parents that shock therapy could help him. After the therapy, Susann told others that Dr. Bender had “destroyed” her son. The boy, Guy, has been in institutions since his treatments.

Now, of course there were colleagues of Dr. Bender who spoke out against her electroshock work on children, including Dr. Leon Eisenberg, who paved a great deal in the study of autistic children. Dr. Eisenberg wrote, “[Lauretta Bender] claimed that some of these children recovered [because of her use of shock treatment]. I once wrote a paper in which I referred to several studies by [Dr. E. R.] Clardy. He was at Rockwin State Hospital – the back up to Bellevue – and he described the arrival of these children. He considered them psychotic and perhaps worse off then before the treatment.”

Bender was not only improper in her experimental studies, but she also made very racial comments, including stating that she felt African-Americans had a “capacity for laziness” and an “ability to dance” (though this doesn’t seem to be a bad thing to me), which were both features of the “specific brain impulses” of these people.

Now, Dr. Bender not only worked with electroshock therapy. She utilized pharmaceutical agents in the treatment of autistic and schizophrenic children. These psychopharmaceutical agents included Metrazol (generic name for pentylenetetrazol, a drug used as a circulatory and respiratory stimulant, at which high doses can cause convulsions), sub-shock insulin therapy, amphetamines and anticonvulsants.

Now, Metrazol had been used in convulsive therapy, but had side effects of seizures, and was therefore determined to not be a good thing to use. Interestingly, but almost not surprisingly, the CIA and Army Counter-Intelligence Corps (CIC) interrogators had used Metrazol in large amounts by injecting them into enemy or Communist agents. This served to scare other agents under suspicion, by forcing them to observe. With the horrible side effects of Metrazol including shaking violently, and twisting and turning of the body, arching the back and grimacing in pain, it would scare those who observed. I’m not surprised, considering those who were injected with metrazol would also suffer bone fractures, including broken necks and backs, as well as joint dislocations.

Now, we know the CIA and CIC also experimented with LSD. Guess who found out about that LSD work? None other than our Dr. Bender.

In 1955 and 1956, she began hearing about LSD as a pharmaceutical agents for helping children suffering from autism and schizophrenia, as well as other mental disorders. With her earlier work with electroshock therapy, she was in contact with several contractors of the CIA’s Artichoke and MK/ULTRA projects (Artichoke utilized Metrazol, MK/ULTRA used LSD). These contractors included some famous names, like Drs. Harold A. Abramson, Paul Hoch, James B. Cattell, Joel Elkes, Max Fink, Harris Isbell and Alfred Hubbard.

A noted bacteriologist and biological warfare scientist who worked for the CIA, Dr. Frank Olson, had been taken to Dr. Abramson. Olson was injected surreptitiously by thr government with LSD. Nine days later, Olson jumped from his Ney York hotel and died. His family claimed that he had suffered a nervous breakdown and fell. But in the ‘70s, the government admitted that he had, in fact, been injected with LSD, and he had not been told of that before being injected.

Now, Dr. Bender admired Dr. Fink, who is considered the godfather of electroshock therapy in the US. How appealing. In the 1950s and beyond, Dr. Fink was a CIA Project Artichoke agent, and in the early 1950s, he served as a consultant to those who were exploring electroshock therapy in interrogations. In fact, one CIA report indicated that Dr. Fink stated, that “an individual could gradually be reduced through the use to electroshock treatment to the vegetable level.”

Dr. Bender also admired Dr. Lothar B. Kalinowsky, a close friend of Fink, and who also consulted with the CIA on electroshock matters.

Needless to say, Dr. Bender began work using LSD. Soon after, she attended a conference where Dr. Abramson was a presenter. In 1960, he conducted his own experiments on a group of six children using LSD. After the conference, Dr. Bender was notified that her LSD experiments would be secretly partly funded by another CIA group headed by Dr. James L. Monroe, who had worked on 55 top-secret experiments for the CIA. These experiments involved not only LSD, but also black magic, psychological warfare, media manipulation (aka propaganda), as well as other topics.

Dr. Bender’s first group included 14 children, all under the age of 11, ranging in age from 6 to 10 years old. One subject, seven-year-old Jean Marie, had been abandoned by her parents to an aunt who was not exactly interested in taking care of the little girl. She was then taken to Dr. Bender.

Jean Marie, who liked to be called Marie, was shy and suspicious of adults. She does enjoy the company of other children, though, and will smile when around them. However, she was given LSD at three instances, and she smiled no more. She lost interest in other children. She became more restless and lost interest in doing things like reading, which she enjoyed very much before the LSD treatment.

In Dr. Bender’s own words, she said she initially gave the children patients “25 mcg. of LSD intramuscularly while under continuous observation..The two oldest boys, over ten years, near or in early puberty, reacted with disturbed anxious behavior. The oldest and most disturbed received Amytal sodium 150 mg. intramuscularly and returned to his usual behavior.”

These two boys were removed from the data set of the study, leaving Dr. Bnder with 12 children, who were then given injections of 25 mcg. of LSD. Several days later, they were given 100 mcg. of LSD one time a week.

Of course, Dr. Bender found her experiments worthwhile, and indicated that she found LSD use to be promising. She stated, “In general, they [the children] were happier; their mood was ‘high’ in the hours following the ingestion of the drug … they have become more spontaneously playful with balls and balloons … their color is rosy rather than blue or pale and they have gained weight.”

Dr. Bender’s LSD experiments continued into the late 1960s. she did not only work on LSD proper, but also with UML-491, and UML-401, an LSD-type drug. Her reports did not indicate whether guardians of the children knew what the experiments exactly were, or that they were funded by the CIA. However, over time, it has been indicated that a number of Dr. Bender’s patients had been “wards of the state” or orphans, though the experimental reports do not seem to indicate this.

Dr. Leon Eisnberg said a number of years later that, “She [Dr. Bender] did all sorts of things. Lauretta Bender reached success in her career long before randomized controlled trials had even been heard of. She didn’t see the need for trials of drugs because she was convinced she knew what worked.”

Today, so many decades after Dr. Bender’s CIA-funded experimentation, not many individuals even know they were conducted. The ethics, or lack thereof, of these experiments, however, is most baffling.


2 thoughts on “Manic Monday: Electroshock and LSD: Child Experiments

  1. Pingback: El Terrible Tratamiento en Humanos -Terapia electroconvulsiva | PRvlogs

  2. Pingback: El Terrible Tratamiento en Humanos -Terapia electroconvulsiva – Puerto Rico Vlogs –

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