Hunting for Hedonia
A Parkinson’s patient stops trembling. A deeply depressed person feels happy again. These are some of the effects of deep brain stimulation, and this film examines its history, effect and impact. Robert Heath, a notable pioneer in this field, started experimenting with the technique in the 1960s. Archive footage and interviews reveal the spectacular results, but Heath also believed that his technique could “cure” homosexuality. It was partly due to controversial interventions like these that his ideas didn’t get much traction at the time.
Recent times, however, have seen a resurgent interest in his idea of implanting electrodes deep in the brain. Interviews with patients before and after treatment, as well as scientists and surgeons, testify to the positive results. But we also take a look at the other side of the coin: what will happen when we have the ability to shape our own characteristics and personalities? Some scientists believe it’s a question of when it will happen, not if. And of who will get to do it.