THE Spanish Interior Ministry has blocked experiments testing the effects of electromagnetic stimulation on prisoner’s brains amidst ethical concerns.
Interior Ministry officials said the experiments, which were due to go ahead at prisons in the provinces of Huelva and Cordoba in Andalucia, were halted as a precautionary measure.
They were set to see electromagnetic currents sent into the brains of violent prisoners including those jailed for murder to see if it reduced aggressiveness.
Andres Molero, a psychologist at the University of Huelva and lead researcher on the study, said electrical stimulation had a lot of potential.
“It is a non-invasive, portable, cheap and simple technique. If there is scientific evidence that it works, it would be a matter of regulating its use,” Molero said.
Prison psychologist Raquel Martin said inmates who had taken part in earlier, similar studies typically felt more relaxed and less aggressive after treatment over three days.
All participants had voluntarily signed up for the study.
It had the approval of prison authorities, a university ethics committee and government officials before it was put on hold.
Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) involves sending currents into the prefrontal cortex of the brain, the area that controls decision-making and social behaviour.
Psychologists, criminologists and philosophers have debated whether the techniques and other methods of prisoner intervention are ethical.
Anthony Burgess’ novel A Clockwork Orange, which director Stanley Kubrick made into a film in 1971, famously featured a character who undergoes treatment in prison to make him less violent.