The Brain: A Secret History
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The Brain: A Secret History

2011, Psychology  -   63 Comments
Ratings: 8.00/10 from 123 users.

The Brain: A Secret HistoryIn a compelling and at times disturbing series, Dr Michael Mosley explores the brutal history of experimental psychology.

Mosley embarks on three journeys to understand science's last great frontier - the human mind - as he traces the history of the attempts to understand and manipulate the brain. Experiments on the human mind have led to profound insights into how our brain works - but have also involved great cruelty and posed some terrible ethical dilemmas.

Mind Control. To begin, Michael traces the sinister ways this science has been used to try to control our minds. He finds that the pursuit of mind control has led to some truly horrific experiments and left many casualties in its wake. Extraordinary archive captures what happened - scientists systematically change the behavior of children; law abiding citizens give fatal electric shocks; a gay man has electrodes implanted in his head in an attempt to turn his sexuality.

Emotions. In this film, Michael investigates how scientists have struggled to understand that most irrational and deeply complex part of our minds - our emotions. Michael meets survivors - both participants and scientists - of some of the key historical experiments. Many of these extraordinary research projects were captured on film - an eight-month-old boy is taught to fear random objects, baby monkeys are given mothers made from wire and cloth, and an adult is deliberately violent before a group of toddlers.

Broken Brains. Dr Michael Mosley concludes his series exploring the brutal history of experimental psychology by looking at how experiments on abnormal brains have revealed the workings of the normal brain. He meets remarkable individuals like Karen, who suffered from a rare condition - alien hand syndrome - which meant that one of her hands constantly attacked her. And Julia, who seems to have recovered from her stroke - until experiments reveal she is unable to recall the name of any object.

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63 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Diane

    Well ,after all we are in hell ,or at the very least a kind of prison...with the thought of hey I'm gonna die .don't know we live on as a soul..or are we doomed to be born .on lovely planet earth .again. one know.

  2. nile ferns

    Didn't learn a thing that I already learned from Psy-101

  3. Emily

    How is it that nobody realises that people are also animals. The experiments on all of the animals were disgusting, and are still disgusting. I also had to turn it off as it made me so angry at the clear distress of the dog and the look on the little boys face. The human race is disgusting.

  4. Juliet

    I watched part of the programme broadcast last night with growing repulsion. We saw a baby being subjected to experiments designed to give us an understanding of fear, then some old footage of a baby monkey in a laboratory, separated from it's mother so that it's basic emotional needs could be assessed through a series of crude experiments. It was very distressing to observe, particularly as More gave creduility to these cruel experiments It was like watching something produced by the Nazi SS. You must try harder and use nothing that amounted from old experiments that surely should be consigned into a bin of great shame. No-one, whatever species should suffer so that 'scientists' can make great claims about 'understanding' in science. Shame on you Micheal.

    1. Hazel

      Surely not using the research and pretending it never existed makes all of the animals and humans that suffered be forgotten and their sacrifices completely in vain? It will not be allowed to happen again but using the results from the research at least means something positive came from it, as the results can often help people now and mean that research like that doesn't have to be repeated in any way.

  5. Ultron

    Part2 and 3 ???.,

  6. Smith

    I personally think Pavlov was too reserved in his pursuit for knowledge, it's sad that 'morals' used to be considered more important than results. Thank god that changed

    1. Hazel

      I don't know if that was a joke or if you've got that the complete wrong way around...


    How can I access Parts II & III Emotions & Broken Brains? Help please!!

  8. Jax Rousseau

    Fascinating! I really want parts 2 and 3!!!!

  9. Thomas

    The Brain - A Secret History
    Can someone please give me a link to download part II?

  10. Laura B

    I love Science, I believe in searching for answers, but after seeing this I keep thinking about people who claim alien abductions and having experiments done on them...not really any different is it.....

  11. Sammy Radford

    im thrilled i get to see this again,when it dissapeared from iplayer i thought it was gone forever.i found it completely fascinating and was so proud that id heard of most of the research. my psychology tutor and i were also interested to see what had happened of HM (henry molaison) which i think i in one of these documentaries

  12. James Cameron Horth

    The well of despair! Poor monkeys....

  13. melloyeyo

    Liked it pretty much.

  14. David Foster

    One thing he said that I disagree with:

    In the split brain patients, when a shape of a letter was placed in their left hand, and they were asked to identify it, Dr. Mosley says that "this clearly demonstrates that *language* is solely a left-brain function". But it would seem to me that since the left hand (which is controlled by the right hemisphere) is still able to sign the correct answer, that the right hemisphere is obviously still fully capable of understanding language. So, in reality, all this experiment demonstrates is the physical disconnection between the right hemisphere and the speech center, AND an apparent total unawareness by EITHER hemisphere that the disconnect even exists.

  15. David Foster

    Rewarding desired behavior produces more desired behavior... Gee, who'd a thunk it?

    1. pp

      That is quite complex thinking for the early 1900's.

  16. Phillip Galinsky

    Does anybody have information on what part of Dave's brain was removed? (Episode 2 4/4 at about 2:00ish)

    possibly some part of the limbic system?.. amygdala?

  17. Ruby20112

    I'm glad that with neuroscience we can have a reasonable explanation to what happens inside our brain and how it affects our behavior; no offense to anyone who believes in the paranormal, but is not fair to rely in the belief that someone has been possessed by a demon. This is a great documentary I enjoyed watching the whole thing, the host used relevant and simple examples to explain it in simple terms :)

    1. wald0

      What do you mean, "...not fair.."? It is wrong for many reasons in my opinion, but I don't know what you mean by it not being fair. Fair to whom and in what sense? I guess it is not fair to the person accused of being possessed in that it denies them the benefit of real medical diagnoses and treatment in some cases, could lead to severe mental issues during and long after the so called exorcism, etc. Is that what you meant? Or do you mean it is not fair to call it a scientific hypothesis or theory because it is inherently untestable - unmeasurable?

    2. Rick Hall

      I love how people look for any evidence to validate their "scientific" religion but consider others who believe in the supernatural or "paranormal" as you say to be ill rational. Just because science can show the processes of the brain and how they affect us does not mean that anything outside the physical world doesn't exist.

    3. David Foster

      Some say that the physical universe is merely the stage upon which the spirit performs. I tend to agree. Else, what purpose is there to it all?

    4. 0zyxcba1

      @ David Foster,

      What's a spirit?


    5. leighatkins22

      Spirit appears to be the DRIVING FORCE of a living being. The Bible says that a spirit doesn't continue after the host body expires because it describes a dead person as 'asleep' and 'aware of nothing'. The spirit may be assisted by electrical stimulation (defibrillators etc) while it is still attached to its host, but once it dies or leaves the host, it appears to exist no more.
      On the other hand, a 'soul' is a living being combined with its spirit or driving force, in other words, you & I are both 'souls' (a soul is not a spirit). That's why SOS means 'save our souls', not 'save our spirits' or 'save our living bodies'...

    6. Sean Villeneuve

      @David Foster,

      That's a logical fallacy (appeal to ignorance/burden of proof).

      Why must there be a special purpose for humanity? What makes you believe our purpose is any different than the purpose we are able to observe in "nature" around us (Destroy. Consume or Repurpose. Repeat.)?

      I strongly believe that this need for a purpose is nothing more than a trick of the mind necessary for evolution to take place. A plain and simple motivation technique... If we all knew the answer nothing would ever get done, we'd all just sit around in a big permanent orgy and breed like we were cancer cells. There would be no evolution, no increase in efficiency of the species. IMVHO, We need to be so that everything is. ;p

      Whether you want to think of us as self-replicating machine elves in a complex biomechanical system, or as "souls" part of some grand test being administered by an all knowing being.... At the end of the day, we should be able to agree that in our present circumstances we are accomplishing nothing more than ''retards throwing ice cubs at the sun" and we have a lot of f***ing work ahead of us!

    7. David Foster

      @Oz ... "What is Spirit?" .. That which says: "I AM".

    8. Fvleo

      You clearly have no idea what science is. Go back to church and worship the Easter Bunny.

    9. kalexa1

      Seems more like you clearly have no idea what faith and spirituality are. You only see science as your authority and god. That's sad because there's a whole other dimension other than what you see yet you're 'blissfully'(?) ignorant of it all. Only see science.

    10. leighatkins22

      Science is the study of the PHYSICAL WORLD & NATURE THROUGH OBSERVATION & EXPERIMENTATION. This means that by "science's" own confession, non-visible or non-observable things are not considered by science. I'm sorry, but Rick Hall is right - I ADORE science but also believe in the non-observable world & by this very definition, science cannot answer everything - including the existence of your crappy Easter Bunny.
      Grow up & admit what is SO obvious to the rest of the world...

  18. cezy

    Is the knowledge worth the lives of innocent kids and monkeys? Not for me. All those doctors had to do was wait around a bit longer, collect case studies and make use of advanced statistics. But I guess experimenting is easier, faster and less expensive... Dr Mosley thinks the knowledge is worth it, but of course he wouldn't have let his own children be experimented on. How convenient. No wonder he scored low on empathy!
    Still, it is a very good documentary and I'm quite looking forward to watch the final part.

    1. David Foster

      Knowledge isn't worth most of what we have to go through to acquire it. But we do it anyway.

  19. wald0

    OMG< I had to turn this off!! I wish i could lay hands to Pavlov, I would hook him up to a electric shock. I know people think that something is wrong with those of us that identify with animals to the point that I do, and maybe there is something wrong with me- but I am this way and I can't help it. How anyone can harm animals is beyond me, they are just like children. Besides, I think they said they were going to show more horrible experiments on animals and people. I simply can't watch stuff like that without getting so angry that I start pacing the floor and ranting on and on- it gets out of hand. I know something is wrong with me, I should be able to detach myself at least to the point I can watch these documentaries and debate with others intelligently about it, at least that would have the potential of being productive. I wish I could watch this, I am really interested in the topic. I guess I will have to settle for reading the comments. Please don't hurt animals everyone, they have feelings just like people. In fact they are innocent just like children, I would rather see an adult person get beat than an animal. Most of them deserve it, including me at times.

    The next time you see some rich corporate fat cat driving down the road in his Hummer, follow him. When he gets out of the car- beat him repeatedly amongst the head and shoulder area then flee the scene. The next time you see a stray dog or cat, feed them and help them find a home. In six months this will be a better place to live.

    1. dan

      I understand exactly how you feel. I loved your last paragraph!!!!!

    2. Earthwinger

      I don't think there's anything wrong with you at all, waldo. On the contrary, I believe that it's the vast majority of humanity that's out of kilter with natural law. If you look at how indigenous people the world over (what's left of them) regard their environment, you see a deep spiritual connection between them and all living things. That's something that most in the modern (civilized?) world have long since lost. We have for the most part, become indifferent to horrors such as factory farming, animal testing, and the wholesale destruction of natural habitats.

      I think that your respect for animals demonstrates a very real communion with nature and the real world, which as I see it, is a show of true *humanity* and that's something you should never let go of!

    3. wald0

      Thank you very much. I am not really a very spiritual person though, at least not purposefully.

    4. Natalia Fateyeva

      there is nothing wrong with protecting the animals and people who beat stray dogs need to be locked up, BUT, you need to learn some are calling for hurting humans (since driving a Hummer is a sufficient sin , apparently..and no, I don't drive one, but your ideas are simplistic and potentially dangerous -as most simplistic ideas are -you are not noble in your compassion for animals, if you forget to have compassion for humans;you are a borderline-nut and you need help..the good thing, is that you seem to realize it yourself.

    5. wald0

      Are you serious? It is called a joke man, lighten up. Of course I don't really want anyone to beat someone because they drive a Hummer. Why is it that there is always some politically correct uptight person, for lack of a better term, waiting to jump on every little thing anyone says in an attempt to look more sensitive or politically correct than everyone else? You knew what I said was a joke, an exaggeration to make a point. If you really didn't- well, no wonder the world is falling apart. With wits like that we are sure do ourselves in.

      As far as my compassion for humans, take the time to read the rest of my posts before you make such a broad judgement based on two paragraphs. I do more than most people I know to stop human suffering. That doesn't mean that I like people, in my experience they are usually dishonest, selfish, lazy, and overly concerned with appearance and how what they say sounds or how they look. Do I have a problem with some one getting a good beating now and again when they deserve it, no- not at all. Humans are a bunch of whiny politically correct babies. They act like it is the greatest sin since man ate the apple if they get a busted lip or black eye. Well, in my opinion a good swift kick in the rear is exactly what some people need. If a few kicks that are normally aimed at defenseless innocent animals find their way instead to the seat of some gangster wanna bees rear, that's fine with me. If that offends your delicate sensibilities, well I am sure you will get over it somehow. I could send over some diaper salve and baby powder though, if you think you might lose sleep or something..

    6. David Foster

      What's wrong with wanting to beat someone for driving a Hummer? I think that every time I see one.

    7. leighatkins22

      Close the door dude, or you'll go insane. I feel your point so acutely & I know what you're talking bout. I opened the door once & let the pain in & I thought I was gonna die - the suffering of the innocent (especially animals & children) is absolutely unbearable & the sad thing is that most people who read this, won't even get what I'm saying, coz they just aren't built for it...

  20. tkingsky

    Dr. Nut? Did he just say that? Interesting doc.

  21. fonbindelhofas

    skiners "good behavior" rofl... we can translate that in to zombie behavior!
    & that a F... is that mind control should be used to make a world a beter place? this is not sparta but still madness!
    A must see doc!

  22. nojvek

    Dr Michael Mosley rocks. Some of the stuff in the doco is freaky though.

  23. Sertsis

    Wow, I've heard about Pavlov's experiments, but I had no idea how inhumane they were. I really wish we could stop using research animals,it's something more telling about us than any clinical result could ever reveal.

    1. Rick Hall

      animals? Um.... he did experiments on PEOPLE. But you are concerned for the animals? Yes, stop using animals for research! Who cares how many people we can save! Down with people!

    2. Sertsis

      Well Rick, I guess I should have started a new paragraph there, as I wasn't referring to Pavlov specifically. I wasn't trying to compare it to human suffering(I have you to do that for me), and I'm sure research animals have advanced science, I just wish that these people would stop using them. Animals don't reap any of the benefits, they just do the suffering.
      I didn't think this was very hard to understand.

  24. OccultAlien

    and a girl who had arguments with her parents over a boyfriend gets sent to a so called 'hospital'. these people should be bloody arrested. I am so fired up the psychodoctors will probably come over and lock me up now.......

  25. OccultAlien

    wow pavlov was able to show what any person with a brain could have told you a thousand years ago...... and without torturing children....
    go Pavlov!!!! be proud....

  26. Kim Bruce

    Palestinians use these techniques on the children encouraging them to hate Jews and Christians. They are taught that the Jews are apes and pigs and Christians are dogs and that we should all be killed. This is taught through a Sesame Street-like program.

    1. fonbindelhofas

      seriously doubt that... they hate ocupants? yes, they think they are dogs? no i dont think so...

    2. Guest

      Look it up. It's a fact (or at least it used to be), sad as it is. And with the climate the way it generally is in much of the world right now, should that be in any way surprising? Maybe the real surprise is that there isn't a program just like it in the U.S... Here, the puppets that automatically spew such divisive doctrine are primarily intended for ADULTS, of course. A much safer immediate policy, since they are so much less powerful and influential than children...

    3. RileyRampant

      Israelis use these techniques on the children encouraging them to hate and fear Palestinians. They are taught that the Palestians do have and deserve to have no rights that need be respected, and that the Palestinians violent reactions have no basis in self-defense of those rights, or in consequence of the loss of those rights. This is taught through an APAC, ADL, US Congress, NYT-like program. ~5% of Palestinians are Christian, there is a long history of cultural religious integration within Palestinian culture.

  27. Kim Bruce

    Now I see how the socialists, via Hollywood, etc. are brainwashing the world population. It's group-think.

  28. Teamtigerpaw

    If someone knows anything in the entire universe that is more faceting than the human brain please let me know what it is...........

  29. Kim Bruce

    Nazi-Mengele-like experimentation on humans...

    1. David Foster

      You might be surprised to know just how much Dr.Mengele's 'research' contributed to modern medical knowledge.

    2. Rick Hall

      Because of Operation Paperclip.

  30. Dejan Savi?

    Excellent documentary!

  31. Nybor Backward

    great series! a lot of this was covered in my intro psych course but wasn't explained nearly as well or in such an interesting fashion as in this doc. definitely would recommend.