“I think it’s somewhat of a sexy button.”

I saw an early episode of the Big Bang Theory which mentioned Olds and Milner’s rats and how these rats would self-stimulate their pleasure center to the point of exhaustion.

This led to my discovery of American psychiatrist Robert Galbraith Heath (1915 – 1999).

In a documentary dedicated to the work of this man, “Brain Mechanisms of Pleasure and Addiction”, an unidentified woman who has undergone deep brain stimulation pushes her own pleasure button repeatedly[1].

She even says “I think it’s somewhat of a sexy button.”

The experiment is considered unethical nowadays.

If an estimated 10% of the Western world is on anti-depressants (“One in 10 Americans now takes an antidepressant medication; among women in their 40s and 50s, the figure is one in four.”nytimes[2]), why is deep brain stimulation with a “pleasure button” considered unethical?

Deep brain stimulation is used with astonishing results in patients suffering from Obsessive–compulsive disorder.

Maybe one day we will all have an orgasmatron in our brains?

Would it prove to be so addictive that we would die in great numbers from starvation and fatigue just as Olds and Milner’s rats and Korean video game addict Lee Seung Seop, who died in 2006 after playing for more than fifty hours straight.

Or would there be more cases as the one of Kim Sa-rang, a 3-month-old Korean child, who would die in 2009 from malnutrition after both her parents spent hours each day in an internet cafe raising a virtual child in an online game.

I used to believe in the complete sovereignty of one’s own body.

But today I’m not against protecting people against themselves and against the overuse of their “sexy button.”

Here’s a quote of what happened to another woman who was unable to control self-stimulation of her “sexy button”:

“At its most frequent, the patient self-stimulated throughout the day, neglecting her personal hygiene and family commitments. A chronic ulceration developed at the tip of the finger used to adjust the amplitude dial and she frequently tampered with the device in an effort to increase the stimulation amplitude. At times she implored her family to limit her access to the stimulator, each time demanding its return after a short hiatus” (Portenoy et al., 1986)[2]

And then there’s the tragic story of patient B-19.