Mind Games – Science’s Attempts at Thought Control

If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind is controllable – what then?
— George Orwell, in 1984

The concept of brainwashing was first used to describe certain obscure procedures carried out in early Communist China, but the idea of “cleansing the mind” can be traced back all the way to fourth century Confucian thinkers.

In Popular Western culture, the word immediately evokes George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 and experiments by Nazi scientists and the CIA, as well as Soviet intelligence services. Science’s interest in the possibility of controlling the mind dates back some 20 years before Orwell’s publication of his novel. The first published research on the subject was Chaffee and Light’s A Method for Remote Control of Electrical Stimulation of the Nervous System from 1934. The article recounted experiments carried out on animals using brain implants and electric waves to control brain and motor functions, including getting a monkey to sleep or inducing gastric secretions in a dog.

Electromagnetic Control (EMR)

In 1964, electromagnetic-response researcher Dr. José Delgado from Cordoba, Spain, performed one of the most spectacular public acts of thought control ever, climbing into a bullring and halting the bull in its tracks by pushing a button that controlled an electrode implanted in his brain.

In the US, research on EMR techniques was largely carried out under the wing of the CIA, and the information was classified as top secret for several decades. However, in the 1990s, the US military admitted having worked on developing EMR weapons. When the USSR’s system collapsed, Russian “mind control” research was exposed. Named acoustic psycho-correction, the Russian research program involved developing the capability to control minds and alter behavior through the transmission of:

specific commands via static or white noise bands into the human subconscious without upsetting other intellectual functions.


Within the CIA’s program MK-ULTRA, the infamous Dr. Ewen Cameron used electro-shock therapy, LSD and other psychotropic drugs and various forms of psychological torture on children and adults, trying to de-program the brain in order to re-program it with new information. The aims of these experiments were varied, including the extraction of information from spies and war prisoners and the programming of individuals to carry out counter-espionage missions and attacks, without their consent.

MK-ULTRA was proven to have performed all sorts of damaging tests and experiments on humans without their consent, with devastating effects for their lives, in many cases, including death and suicide.

Weapons Targeting the Brain

As early as 1994, Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg referred to non-lethal weapons in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:

Many of the non-lethal weapons under consideration utilize infrasound or electromagnetic energy (including lasers, microwave, or radio-frequency radiation, or visible light pulsed at brain-wave frequency) for their effects. These weapons are said to cause temporary or permanent blinding, interference with mental processes, modification of behavior and emotional response, seizures,severe pain, dizziness, nausea and diarrhea, or disruption of internal organ functions in various other ways… The current surge of interest in electromagnetic and similar technologies makes the adoption of a protocol explicitly outlawing the use of these dehumanizing weapons an urgent matter.

According to the latest issue of Synesis, which was entirely devoted to Neurotechnology in National Security, Intelligence and Defense, drugs that can be useful in combat or special operations include:

  • cognitive and motor stimulants
  • somnolent agents
  • mood altering agents, some of which can induce paranoia in larger doses
  • “affiliative” agents
  • convulsants

The review of the current military implications of neurotechnology goes on to affirm that,

while some of these agents can be used to enhance the neuro-cognitive and motor performance of (one’s own) troops (e.g., low does of stimulants, mood altering drugs, etc), others have apparent utility against hostile forces (e.g., somnolent, psychotogenic, af? liative, and convulsant agents).

With the first of these objectives in mind, the US military implemented the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program earlier this year, which uses cognitive behavioral principles, instead of drugs, to “better prepare” soldiers and families for war. Although this type of “programming” is seen as a less harmful form of mind control, the program has also encountered many detractors.

The Smirnov Way

In 2007, the US Department of Homeland Security closed a deal with Moscow’s Psychotechnology Research Institute. Now run by his widow, Professor Russalkina, the institute’s achievements were largely the work of Dr. Igor Smirnov.

Using electroencephalography (EEG), Smirnov had measured brain waves to create a map of the subconscious. Later, he used recorded subliminal messages to physically alter that landscape by means of the power of suggestion. Some of Smirnov’s reported experiments include using visual and aural subliminal messages to re-program a drug addict to become more interested in the upcoming birth of his son than in securing his next dose of heroin.

The Homeland Security Department became more interested in the Institute’s work on account of their Semantic Stimuli Response Measurements Technology (SSRM) Tek project. This is a software-based “mind reading” technology which tests a subject’s involuntary responses to subliminal messages. The idea is to use it, for example, at airport screening posts, flashing subliminal images, such as photos of Bin Laden and the World Trade Center, as part of an innocent videogame. Passengers’ involuntary responses are said to be different for regular people and those plotting a terrorist attack.

Although there are companies working on further research and the practical implementation of SSRM Tek, such as Canada’s NORTHAM Psychotechnologies, it hasn´t been used for mass-screening at airports as yet.

The Future

Ever since tetraplegic patient Matthew Nagle was able to control a cursor with his brain, through neural implants in 2004, it would seem logical that the reverse processes of having external agents controlling the mind should no longer be the stuff of science fiction.

In a way, knowing everything that was achieved scientifically in terms of thought control and brain programming as early as the 1950’s and 60’s, many people wonder that very little progress has been made since Dr. Cameron’s times. However, one can naturally assume that the problem has much more to do with the secrecy of military programs than with a slow scientific development.

The ethical questions are, of course, the central issue here. While Dr. Smirnov claimed that he had often refused offers by Russian mob types to help them tweak reluctant business associates’ wills; many researchers have historically had no problem selling their information to the highest bidder.

In fact, the ethical problems associated with this type of research today have more to do with where the financing can come from. Although techniques that might permit control over the human brain’s reactions might be extremely beneficial to treat certain chronic psychiatric conditions, it has been largely military and intelligence services that have been willing to fund this research with a very different agenda altogether. Scientists are faced with the difficult choice between working for government organizations, knowing full well what their research will be used for, or cutting down their experiments, for lack of funding.

Today, the horrifying landscapes that Orwell imagined are all scientifically plausible — the thought police might be implemented and thought crime might be discovered by scanning a subject’s brain; there is no scientific impediment for all that. The question lies simply with who has access to the technology and what are they prepared to use it for.


Taylor, K. (2004). Brainwashing: the science of thought control. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Hatch Rosenberg, B. “Non-lethal” weapons may violate treaties. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 1994;(50)5:44.

Giordano, J, Wurzman, R. Neurotechnologies as weapons in national intelligence and defense – an overview Synesis [PDF], 2011.

Chomsky, N. (1989). Necessary illusions: Thought control in democratic societies. Toronto,
Canada: CBS Enterprises.

Schell BH (1994). The ominous shadow of the CIA has imprinted itself on the brain research community. The journal of the California Alliance for the Mentally Ill, 5 (1), 38-40 PMID: 11653317

Moreno, J.D. (2000) Undue risk: secret state experiments on humans. New York: W.H. Freeman and Co.

Image via Justin Huang / Shutterstock.

  • Mind control technologies are weapons which use drugs, electronic microchip implants, nanotechnologies, microwaves and /or electromagnetic waves to subvert an individual’s sense of control over their own thinking, behavior, emotions or decision making by attacking the brain and nervous system.
    I had collected many reported articles which introduced ‘mind control technologies’. The listing of these articles would not mislead readers; it was a short cut for readers to learn what mind control technologies were.

    Stories about Soleilmavis Liu

    The Fact and evidence of abuses and tortures of mind control technologies:
    I was controlled by remote Voice to Skull technologies and Mind Control technologies, and I was brought inside US Embassy in Hong Kong
    (http://peacepink.ning.com/profiles/blogs/kidnapped-by-mind-control )

    Judyth Piazza interviews Soleilmavis Liu About Mind Control Technologies
    (http://thesop.org/story/20111010/judyth-piazza-interviews-soleilmavis-sol-about-mind-control-technologies.html )

    Soleilmavis Liu fights against mind control weapons
    written by Sofia Smith on 22 Oct 2011

    Soleilmavis case summary of mind control abuses and tortures

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  • Jordi

    Hi, my name is Jordi and I am a psychologist in Barcelona. Personally I think the mind control technology will be a real short period of time. Surely this control is not absolute safety. But each time, the person is more manipulable through technology.
    Sorry for my English. Jordi

    • Gracias por tu mensaje Jordi. Lamentablemente, creo que tienes mucha razón.

  • alEx

    Mind control has always been and is the mental/emotional way of controlling others. With less brain one use more physical power. Just look around you and you will notice that notions as simple as “good and bad” are a way to categorize, channel one’s thoughts. Can you imagine that school learned History or religion is just a way to see the world, to put ideology and beliefs into people brain, and to make them subjects instead of free humans thinkers ? This is also what we call culture, part of our own identity or personality.

    To be afraid of the technological way to do it, is just to be afraid ! And when there is novelty or change, one find always a reason to put the brakes, to look back, and get anxious for the future. When the world evolve too quickly or steps to high in the progress, stress gets higher and higher.

    Life always finds a way through. People who will survive to the changes are the ones who can adapt to the new world. We use mind control in cognitive therapies. Neuroscience can bring us new ways of building, analysing and controling our own mind. Manipulation from others is every day life. This is a game, a challenge to win not to get too much manipulated, or being f***ed.

    Nowadays adventure is about ontology, about discovering in deep who we are, how we behave. And this is fantastic !


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  • George Ronald Adkisson

    terrible things, the united States government does even to the children today…using every method possible to lower the numbers of people relatively against the two major political parties there in Washington DC. The uS actually coined the term schizophrenia around 1890 and was very capable at causing what is called today voice to skull”and also invented a whole host of terms to use a psychological diseases resulting an upswing with psychiatrists that did not mind studying chemical reactions on the unsuspected.
    Nokia Tesla is just one of the many people used wrongly against the American public.He even reported they could cause earth quakes using earth quake detectors…and almost went un-noticed.
    Not a good place to start another women? group, the uS…as there are so many getting no attention around the globe.Good article though…at least we see we still have many people all over the place not brain washed to the point of trying to attack a bunch of politicians or cops. That? good…really.

  • James

    ‘Battle For The Mind’ by William Sargant was also very influential among early researchers, including Ewen Cameron himself.



    • Thanks for the input. I’ll check that out.

  • Evil People

    New Zealand has been using acoustic weapons for many years. They put the acoustic transducers into cars and neighbouring properties. The carrier waves are ultrasonic at ear resonant frequencies – different for everyone which allows individual targetting. The modulation can range from dialog to classical conditioning. The abuse ranges from irrelevant through to torture and probably murder.

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    Vipassana is one of the best Technic we got from our ancestor mot only for mind control but to develop our vision towards life and Open a vision to see what is an pshychic and biological movement going on in our self. vipasssana which means to see things as they really are, is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation. It was rediscovered by Gotama Buddha more than 2500 years ago and was taught by him as a universal remedy for universal ills, we can say that is an Art Of Living.

    This non-sectarian technique aims for the total eradication of mental impurities and the resultant highest happiness of full liberation. Healing, not merely the curing of diseases, but the essential healing of human suffering, is its purpose.

    Vipassana is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind. It is this observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body that dissolves mental impurity, resulting in a balanced mind full of love and compassion.

    The scientific laws that operate one’s thoughts, feelings, judgements and sensations become clear. Through direct experience, the nature of how one grows or regresses, how one produces suffering or frees oneself from suffering is understood. Life becomes characterized by increased awareness, non-delusion, self-control and peace. May God bless you all Mangal Ho,,,.

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Veronica Pamoukaghlian, MA

Veronica Pamoukaghlian, MA, holds a Masters in Creative Writing. She has directed two documentaries shot in psychiatric wards and a feature documentary about the 77-year old senior Decathlon champion of the world, Raul. Her last production is Monstruo, a short film about non-voluntary euthanasia. She is the CEO of Uruguayan film production company Nektar FIlms. You may visit her blog at The Wander Life

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