cover art for MIND WARS: Military and intelligence funding of brain science - a curious history.


MIND WARS: Military and intelligence funding of brain science - a curious history.

Season 1, Ep. 11

In this podcast Professor Jonathan D Moreno, author of the book Mind Wars, is in conversation with Ken Barrett. Their chat ranges from human experimentation, in the US in World War 2, to fears of mind control in the intelligence community in the 1950s and related experiments with LSD and mescaline, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and various specific projects up to the present day. On the subject of bioethics, we speak about the Nuremberg Code, the surprising origin of informed consent and much more, ending on an optimistic note.



Ken Barrett is an artist, writer and former neuropsychiatrist

Jonathan D. Moreno is the David and Lyn Silfen University Professor of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, of History and Sociology of Science, and of Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania.


Musical extract is from Act 1, Scene 2 of Brainland, composed by Stephen Brown

Portrait by Ken Barrett

Discussed on the podcast:




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  • 23. BRAINWAVES: Hans Berger and the discovery of the EEG.

    In this special extended edition of the podcast, we take a deep dive into the life and work of Hans Berger, the German psychiatrist who discovered the EEG a century ago this year, the inspiration for a major character in the opera Brainland. Cornelius Borck is a leading German historian of medicine and science and an expert on Berger and his work. In a wide ranging conversation he describes the scientific backdrop to Berger’s discovery, his early career and personality, how the discovery came about, why it took him 5 years to report his findings and why he was denied the Nobel Prize. We also discuss his eugenic sympathies and relationship with the Nazis, his decline into depression and the post-war mythology that grew up around him. Participants:Cornelius Borck, Professor and Director of the Institute for History of Medicine and Science Studies, Lübeck University, Germany. Ken Barrett, artist, writer and retired neuropsychiatrist. . Cornelius’s book on this subject: Music: Stephen Brown’s depiction of the alpha rhythm of the EEG, from Brainland Act 1, scene 2.Sketch by KB.Brainland the opera website:
  • 22. OBJECTS WITH SOUL: The strange power of puppetry.

    Why do we respond to puppets? That's what this episode explores, with the help of Pia and Ana, academics who approach the question from different perspectives. We discover what is meant by the 'uncanny valley' and how it links puppetry to robots (and zombies!) and discuss if 'concptual blending' might be useful. Does the old notion of 'suspending disbelief' hold water? Ana talks about her project using a viewer's direction of gaze to explore this question in re;ation to puppetry.Participants:Pia Banzhaf, Assistant Professor, Michigan State University, Department of Linguistics , Lanuages and Culture; Center for Integrrative Studies in the Arts and Humanities; Collaborations for Applied puppetry Research. Website: KaleidoscopiaAna Diaz Barriga, Doctoral Candidate, Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Theatre & Drama, Northwestern University. Barrett, artist, writer and retired neuropsychiatrist.'s chapter, 'The Ontology of puppets' is here: about the show Ana has been studying is hereMore about the 'uncanny valley is here: this image illustrates it: Prelude to Brainland, Act 1, composed by Stephen BrownSketch by KB.Brainland the opera:
  • 21. POEMS, CHATBOTS AND EPILEPSY: Understanding and ameliorating life with seizures.

    In this conversation poet and visual artist Andrea Mbarushimana and neurologist/poet Heather Angus-Leppan talk about their project exploring the value of chatbots to help people cope with and better understand their epilepsy. The project began by collecting over 1700 questions about the condition posted by people living with epilepsy. Heather describes how Andrea was integral to the project, facilitating workshops with people living epilepsy. Andrea shares poems written during the project, including two from the perspective of those chatbots! Heather also shares a moving poem about one of her patients.  Participants:Andrea Mbarushimana, poet, visual artist.www.andrea-mbarushimana.comHeather Angus-Leppan, Neurologist, Royal Free Hospital, Professor of Medical Education, University of East London. Barrett, visual artist, writer, former neuropsychiatrist. composed by Stephen Brown: Extract from Act 1 Scene 2 of Brainland.Portrait sketch by KB. Brainland the opera website:
  • 20. FEELING GROOVY: Exploring the brain's response to music.

    Peter Vuust is that rare combintion - a professional musician and composer, and a professor of neuroscience investigating how our brain responds to music. This wide ranging conversation includes why we humans are so attracted and responsive to music, the link between groove and predictive cognition, the Mozart effect, the tingle/chill factor in music, and how to get more out of atonal music. As if that weren’t enough, Peter shares a track of his upcoming album (he can be seen and heard in several bands at the Aarhus Jazz Festival in July). Participants:Peter Vuust, musician, composer, professor of neuroscience and Head of the Department of Music and the Brain at Aarhus University, Denmark. Platman, writer and retired physican.Ken Barrett, artist, writer and retired neuropsychiatrist/psychophysiologist. : 'Homage to Keith', composed by Peter Vuust, played by the Peter Vuust Quartet (2024, with permission).Portrait sketch by KB.Brainland the opera website:
  • 19. OBJECTS WITH SOUL: The strange power of puppetry.

    Those animated objects, puppets, can work powerfully on our emotions and generate empathy, seemingly tapping into some very basic part of our psyche and, perhaps, neurology. Which is the main reason why we are devoting two podcasts to this subject. In this podcast Claudia Orenstein, a leading authority on puppets and physical theatre worldwide discusses the various ways objects are deployed in performance, including their use in ritual, education and entertainment, for adults as well as children. A number of examples are described as she shares her lifelong passion for the subject and there is also an interesting theoretical discussion as to why this and other types of animation have become more popular this century. Next month on the podcast: the psychology and neuropsychology of puppetry. Participants: Claudia Orenstein, Professor of Theatre at Hunter College and Graduate Centre CUNY, USA (who also launched a new journal of puppetry in January). Ken Barrett, visual artist, writer and former neuropsychiatrist. For more about Claudia Orenstein's book Reading the Puppet Stage: is a website for The plastic bag store, which I mentioned in the conversation. Blind Summit’s Paper Story. Bread and Puppet theatre’s website: William Kentridge on Wozzeck Music by Stephen Brown: Prelude to Brainland.Brainland the opera: by KB.
  • 18. NO HAMMER NEEDED: The wonderful world of neurointeractive art.

    Since completing her degree in interactive art 30 years ago Luciana Haill has worked at the cutting edge of the field. She recounts how childhood meningitis got her interested in the brain and Grey Walter's 'The Living Brain' the EEG - she sold her car in order to buy a portable EEG recorder, her tool for exploring the boundary of consciousness. More recently, her obsession with lost historical artefacts led her to create the Arts Council funded 'Apparitions' app - the app recreates lost landmarks when a phone is pointed at the original site (such as the 900 foot St Leonards pier, demolished over 70 years ago - and it really does, as I saw last weekend). Future projects explore aspects of nostalgia and grief.Participants: Luciana Haill, visual and mixed media artist. Formerly Research Artist Sussex University, Department of Informatics, and Department of Psychology and Social Sciences, Greenwich University. https://lucianahaill.wordpress.comKen Barrett, visual artist, writer and retired neuropsychiatrist. The following links relate to the projects discussed: by Stephen Brown: Extract from Brainland Act 1 Scene 2.Brainland the opera: by KB.
  • 17. BRAVE NEW WORLDS : Your neural interface awaits...

    In this podcast Professor Andrew Jackson talks about how he came to be, literally, at the cutting edge between the human central nervous system and new neuro-technologies. After explaining ‘neural interface’, he discusses how the field is starting to change the management of paralysis and epilepsy. There is also an interesting discussion about the effects of exhsiting current tech, including possible implications of Google's acquisition of FitBit and how social media is already effectively modifies behaviour. He also shares a lockdown project – 'closed loop' music generated by and modified in real time by brain oscillations (with some samples included). Participants:Andrew Jackson, Professor of Neural Interfaces, University of Newcastle, UK Barrett, visual artist, writer and former neuropsychiatrist/psychophysiologist. Closed loop music generated by Andrew Jackson’s brain (with permission).Brainland the opera website: by KB.
  • 16. YOUR BRAIN ON BEAUTY: Welcome to the world of neuroaesthetics...

    In this podcast neurologist and academic Anjan Chatterjee opens up the world of neuroaesthetics, from basic definitions and a taxonomy of aesthetics, including individual responses to the built environment, to neurological correlates of our responses to beauty. The influence of expectation and beliefs regarding value of objects/works of art are also touched upon, and the way neuroimaging results reflect this effect. Some current projects of the Penn Centre for Neuroaesthetics also get a mention, including a study using the arts in a structured way to aid recovery and readjustment of veterans. Participants:Anjan Chatterjee, Professor of Neurology, Psychology and Architecture, University of Pennsylvania and Head of the Penn Centre for Neuroaesthetics (the extraordinary range of projects can be viewed here )Ken Barrett, visual artist, writer and retired neuropsychiatrist: and closing music: Prelude to the opera Brainland, composed by Stephen Brown. Brainland the opera website: by Ken Barrett.

    In this podcast we give the brain a rest and take an excursion into the music world. Trevor Ford, Professor at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, talks to Stephen Brown about his journey from the East End of London to a career as a professional flautist, organist and choir master (an organiser of the annual 'Messiah from Scratch' at the Albert Hall) alongside, accountancy, business management and editing. They discuss the benefits he and Stephen gained from the free music tuition available to children of working class families in the East End in the 1960s and the importance of giving the next generation musical opportunities, but also survival skills necessary for a life in the music jungle.Participants:Trevor Ford, professor, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London. Brown, cellist, composer (with the permission): Handel's Messiah were sung by the Really Big Chorus accompanied by the English Festival Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall in 2014.Brainland the opera website: by Ken Barrett.