Neurophilosophy has a fantastic interview with Heather Perry, a 37-year old British woman who organised a modern-day trepanation to insert a hole in her skull in an attempt to alter her state of consciousness.
Perry gives a lucid insight into her motivations and describes the rather ad-hoc operation in rather gory detail:
How exactly did you perform the trepanation?
I used a hand trepan initially, but that wasn’t proving to be terribly successful. Then there was a problem with the people who owned the property we were staying in, so we decided we’d have to just leave it. I wrapped my head up in a towel and we got out of there. A couple of days later, we had another go. We abandoned the hand trepan and got an electric drill instead. I injected myself with a local anaesthetic and then slashed a big T-shaped incision in my scalp, right down to the bone. I was sat there in the bathroom feeling quite relaxed and they started with the drill. It didn’t take that long at all, probably about 20 minutes. Eventually I could feel a lot of fluid moving around. Apparently, there was a bit too much fluid shifting around, because they’d gone a little bit too far and I was leaking some through the hole, but this wasn’t especially dangerous as there are three layer of meninges before you get to the brain.
It’s an interesting read not least because Perry is rather circumspect when discussing the procedure.
You might expect that someone who had arranged for a hole to be drilled in her skull to be completely convinced about the rather far-out claims for trepanation.
While she does mention some claimed effects and findings, she seems quite measured in her assessment and largely seems to have tried the procedure as an exploration rather than a ‘cure’ in any specific sense.
Link to Neurophilosophy interview with Heather Perry.