William S. Burroughs (author of _Naked Lunch_, _Nova Express_, _The
Ticket that Exploded_, etc.) took Scientology's Clearing Course at
Saint Hill Manor in 1968 and was initially very enthusiastic about it.
Burroughs even wrote a series of articles praising and promoting
Scientology from "Mayfair" magazine during 1968 or 1969.
By 1970, though, Burroughs was thoroughly disillusioned. Here's
an excerpt from "Burroughs on Scientology", from the Los Angeles
Free Press, March 6, 1970. (This article was reprinted in the
small-press book _Ali's Smile/Naked Scientology_, Expanded Media
Editions, Bonn, Germany, 1985, ISBN #3-88030-011-9.)
The E-Meter is also a biofeedback device, and since it passes a
small voltage through the brain and the repetitive commands of
auditing direct attention to certain brain areas, it is a form of
electric brain stimulation. This may account for the valid pictures
and films that do sometimes occur in auditing.
Washington Post article from March 28, 2000
By Esther M. Bauer
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, March 28, 2000; Page Z08
Every few minutes a generator that has been implanted in Claude Jones's
chest emits a signal that researchers hope will make him feel better. The
device, about the size of a pocket watch, sends an electrical impulse to
stimulate the vagus nerve in his neck. That nerve tweaks the limbic system,
which is the mood and emotional center of the brain. The gentle current
lasts a few seconds and is sent every five minutes, 24 hours a day. Jones
hopes the device will eventually help him enjoy being alive. He has not had
that feeling in more than two years.
Researchers are testing vagus nerve stimulation on Jones and several other
patients whose depression has not responded to other treatments. It's
estimated that 1 million people in the United States suffer from
intractable depression; 15 percent of them will eventually commit suicide.
Jones's depression has persisted despite treatment with many kinds of
medication, counseling and electroshock therapy. For the past two years he
had weekly sessions with a psychiatrist and has been hospitalized four
times, once after a suicide attempt. He now takes eight pills a day: six for
depression and two to help him sleep. A series of 10 weekly electroshock
treatments only made him forgetful--which has kept him from getting back to
his job as a lineman for a utility company.
"Not being able to concentrate isn't too good when you work with live
electricity all day," says Jones, 49, whose hands tremble uncontrollably as
side effect of his medications. He has been receiving disability payments
for the last six months and lives in his parents' summer cottage 70 miles
southeast of Dallas. He mostly sits on the porch, his mother reports.
Although the nerve stimulation treatment is fairly exotic, the implantation
is uncomplicated, a 90-minute surgery. On Feb. 4, a neurosurgeon at Zale
Lipshy University Hospital in Dallas implanted the pacemaker-like device
midway between Jones's collarbone and his nipple, then tunneled under his
skin to attach the generator via small wires to electrodes the surgeon had
wrapped around his vagus nerve. When stimulated by the electrical impulses,
the nerve alters functioning of the components of the limbic system that
By the second week after the surgery, Jones began experiencing what his
doctors had warned would be a "feeling of fullness" in his throat when the
electrical impulse came. Jones says, "Every time I feel that thing go off,
it gives me hope."
Actually, Jones is feeling the side effects of the stimulation, not the
electrical impulse itself, which is undetectable. If he tries to speak while
the impulse is being administered, he is momentarily hoarse. In addition to
stimulating the vagus nerve, the impulse momentarily alters the opening of
his larynx and consequently the pitch of his voice.
The research is based at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical
Center in Dallas, which with three other medical centers completed a pilot
of vagus nerve stimulation that was published in the February issue of the
journal Biological Psychiatry. In that study 30 patients were scored
before and after the implant on a roster of depression symptoms that they
were feeling: sadness, low energy, sleeplessness, feelings of guilt, lack of
appetite, inability to concentrate or make decisions, suicidal thoughts
and feelings of worthlessness, helplessness and hopelessness. Twelve of the
30 patients receiving implants saw their scores decline by at least 50
percent, says A. John Rush, a psychiatrist at Southwestern Medical Center.
A six-month follow-up shows continuing improvement. Now 17 patients show a
halving of symptoms. "People with depression of this magnitude are in an
extremely disabled state . . . barely functioning," says Rush. A
comparative clinical trial scheduled for later this year is to consist of a
randomized, double-blind study of about 200 patients at 15 hospitals. Mark
George, professor of psychology, radiology and neurology at the Medical
University of South Carolina in Charleston, has high hopes. "The fact that
we're seeing sustained improvement among people this ill shows something
important is going on," he says.
Which is not to say that anybody yet understands precisely what is going
on. The mood-enhancing effect of vagus nerve stimulation was discovered
accidentally after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it
in 1997 for treatment of epilepsy. Patients began noticing that in addition
to decreasing their seizures it also seemed to zap them into a good mood.
"We stumbled onto this and it has the chance of saving lots of lives . . .
and to help us to fundamentally understand what's going on in the brain
with depression," says George.
Should the surgery win FDA approval for treatment of severe depression,
surgical and long-term follow-up care would cost about $15,000, according to
Houston-based Cyberonics Inc., manufacturer of the stimulation device.
Not all patients improve. The device was removed from one patient because
it overenergized him, making him manic and irritable. After the implant was
withdrawn, his depression came roaring back, says George.
Of the study's other 12 patients who have not felt a large reduction in
their symptoms, several have improved somewhat and continue to receive the
treatments while those who have noticed no change are keeping the device
implanted in the event that further study suggests that a different dosing
schedule might help them. (The impulse can be adjusted by the researchers
using a remote control linked to the generator.)
This research opens new possibilities, says George, and not just for those
fitted with the implants. "If we can understand the road maps of the brain
as the result of this work," he says, "we can find a way to fix it without
a little tickle 24 hours a day. This technology may be a bridge to a cure
that can eventually be done without surgery."
Six weeks after his implant surgery, Claude Jones's hands have stopped
shaking, and he's so improved that he's planning to go back to work in
"I don't feel exactly happy all the time, but I don't feel down either; I
guess you could say I feel normal, and for me that's something new," he
Esther M. Bauer is a reporter in Dallas.
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