Better living through reckless self-experimentation

Scientific American have just concluded its series on scientists who have experimented on themselves in an effort to better understand the mind, brain and body.

The first piece is about Kevin ‘Captain Cyborg’ Warwick, who seems mainly to have been experimenting with the media rather than himself.

I’ve always considered him the poor man’s Stelarc to be honest, but then again, Stelarc hasn’t had a distinguished research career in robotics so swings and roundabouts I guess.

A further story discusses Olivier Ameisen, a cardiologist who became alcoholic and treated himself with baclofen, a drug then untested for the condition.

There’s a couple of people who experimented on their children, which doesn’t really count as self-experimentation in my book, but they make for good reads nonetheless.

One covers Deb Roy’s recording of the entire first two years of his child’s vocalisations and speech to help understand how language develops.

The other describes Jay Giedd’s project to brain scan his daughter every three months from the age of four upwards. Interestingly, it got stopped by the ethics committee because she might feel pressured to take part. Surely bribery by Pokemon cards would have solved that problem?

While there are several other scientists discussed, the only other one of psychological interest in the legendary Alexander Shulgin who has spent most of his life synthesising new hallucinogenic drugs and trying them on himself. He’s now 83. There’s a moral in that story somewhere.

Link to SciAm’s self-experimenters series.

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