MBB Distinguished Lecture: Jeremy Greene, MD, PhD


Tuesday, April 26, 2022, 4:00pm to 5:30pm


Electronic Patients: The Wireless Brain

By the turn of the 20th century, the brain was increasingly understood in terms of electrical machinery.  “If thoughts are of an electrical nature, having probably a very short wave length,” the Luxembourgian-American radio entrepreneur and science fiction writer Hugo Gernsback speculated in 1919, “they should be detectable using the right kind of radio kit with the right kind of oscilloscope.” The electrical iconoclast Nikola Tesla, a frequent correspondent to Gernsback’s magazines, agreed that with the right instruments, “the continuous play of thoughts might be rendered visible, recorded, and at will reproduced.” From Gernsback’s first speculative sketches of a “Thought Recorder” to the BBC experiments of Oliver Lodge in 1929, to the development of practical portable radioelectroencephalography (REEG) by Norman “Jeff” Holter in 1949, wireless technologies became a critical site for reconceiving human thought as a recordable, transmissible—and potentially surveillable—electromagnetic medium.  In the early years of the Cold War, these speculative technologies played into heightened concerns of “brainwashing” and thought control by radio.   They also provided a space for patients diagnosed with psychotic disorders to argue for their own sanity by producing a credible physical explanation for their hallucinations and delusions of reference.  This talk will trace a continuous field of tinkering with wireless technologies in the mind sciences, which still extend new possibilities of surveillance, control, and loss of control to 21st century patients today.

The lecture is free to attend and will be held virtually via Zoom. To ensure that you will receive access to the event, register now.