Inspired by the surrealists, Dr. Peter Seabrooke of the Tyto Alba Society is using
“automatic speaking” to study the inner workings of the brain.
The Surrealists used automatic writing and drawing as a means of expressing the
subconscious. While this was a fascinating way of creating art, until now it has
had no relevance in the scientific community. Dr. Seabrooke’s approach draws on
theory of automatism, while firmly rooting it in the scientific method. “The idea
is to stimulate the brain in such a way that it can essentially describe itself. We’re
getting to the heart of language and understanding.” Professor Seabrooke says, of
the technique that his lab has developed to map the subconscious.
The technique, dubbed “The Opening of the Mouth,” consists of carefully placed
electrodes that stimulate specific regions of the brain, combined with a drug cocktail
Dr. Seabrooke describes as “mildly hallucinogenic” that is meant to induce unfiltered
One subject described the experience as “transcendent, like I was on a journey
inside my own head.” Subjects are prompted with questions throughout the
experience, and their qualitative accounts are integrated with quantitative data
from EEG and MRI scans. The results, though not yet published, are promising.
According to Dr. Seabrooke, “this is an entirely new and intuitive way of
characterizing brain function, and it may have significant implications for many
fields, from education to neuroscience. We are aiming to change the world.”