Kontroverzní osobnost Robert Galbraith Heath (1915-1999).

Title in English Robert Galbraith Heath (1915–1999) as a controversial personality.


Year of publication 2020
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Česká a slovenská psychiatrie
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Medicine

Web http://www.cspsychiatr.cz/detail.php?stat=1319
Keywords Robert Galbraith Heath; schizophrenia; taraxein; septum verum; intracerebral electrodes; brain stimulation
Description The initial use of neurosurgical techniques in psychiatry is usually associated with the names of Egas Moniz (Nobel Prize winner in 1949 for his discovery of the therapeutic value of leucotomy in certain psychoses) and Walter Jackson Freeman II (introduction, very intensive public propagation and popularization of transorbital lobotomy). However American doktor Robert Galbraith Heath working in this field during the beginnings of the second half of the past century definitively deserves attention. After a not long lasting career of army psychiatrist and similarly short-lasting work in "Columbia Greystone Project" (replacement of frontal lobotomy by targeted limited topectomies, removing parts of cingular gyri or frontorbital cortex) Heath started his work in Tulane University of Louisiana with his research activities focused on the research of the pathophysiology of deep brain structures and biological (biochemical) mechanisms in schizophrenia. The results of neurostimulation treatment in schizophrenic patients by means of numerous intracerebral electrodes implanted predominantly to areas associated with septum verum structures were unclear and insufficienly documented. Moreover the treatment was burdened with serious and frequently fatal complications (e.g. brain abscesses, epileptic fits, problems with voluntary movements and psychological problems). The hypothesis of taraxein as the autoimmune cause of schizophrenia declared by Heath was not confirmed by independent research in the involved centers. The attempts at conversion of a homosexually oriented patient to heterosexual preference by means of deep brain structures stimulation using multiple intracerebral electrodes should be considered as the most controversial of his activities. Even at the time of publication of Robert Heath's papers the general opinion was negative. The surgical technique used and the unavailability of neuroradiological techniques needed for safe implantation of intracerebral electrodes were the main causes of the high incidence of serious and frequently fatal complications. Taking into consideration the lack of adequate documentation supporting very extensive implantation of intracerebral electrodes the surgical procedures must be marked as completely unjustified as considered using past and contemporary standards.
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