Self-Trepanation: A DIY Skylight For Your Brain
    By Garth Sundem | September 4th 2010 06:03 AM | 12 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    Garth Sundem is a Science, Math and general Geek Culture writer, TED speaker, and author of books including Brain Trust: 93 Top Scientists Dish the...

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    Today, trepanation, or drilling a hole in the head, is commonly used to release the pressure of swelling inside the skull.

    Throughout history, it's been used to treat epilepsy, migraines, mood disorders and pretty much any other head condition that seemed to surgeons of the time as if it could be improved by seeing the light of day. But even more interesting than holding someone down and punching a hole through his/her skull is doing it yourself.

    In the autobiographical book Bore Hole, Joey Mellen describes his attempts at self-trepanation. Attempts numbers one and two are unsuccessful, resulting in hospital visits and psychiatric evaluations, but no hole.

    He writes the following of his third attempt: "After some time there was an ominous sounding schlurp and the sound of bubbling. I drew the trepan out and the gurgling continued. It sounded like air bubbles running under the skull as they were pressed out. I looked at the trepan and there was a bit of bone in it. At last!"

    Later, Mellen filmed the self-trepanation of his girlfriend, Amanda Feilding, for a film they called Heartbeat in the Brain.

    Note: While it certainly sounds fun, most doctors recommend against self-trepanation.

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    Is Heartbeat in the Brain available?

    I've heard that people who thought they could take watching it, found out otherwise. I'm game (I think).

    Garth Sundem
    Wow, that's a good question--I can't find it ANYWHERE! Though there's much reference to it, including a Washington Post piece. If you find vid, let me know...I'm game, too (I think).

    Garth Sundem, TED speaker, Wipeout loser and author of Brain Trust

    Ha ....and there was me thinking self-trepanation was for people who thought that that was how you got your 3rd eye to work....[wink] sounds both painful, and foolish to me Aitch

    It's in "popular" culture too: if I remember correctly, the main character self-trepanned himself with a power drill in the movie Pi.
    It was an extreme solution to hating math but it seems to have made him happier.
    Garth Sundem
    I almost self-trepanned myself today with the corner of the dish cupboard. Alas--no "ominous schlurp". Will have to try again tomorrow.

    Garth Sundem, TED speaker, Wipeout loser and author of Brain Trust

    Two Christmases ago, slipped on ice outside house. Bumped head. Klonk! Got up, walked away. Thought of nursery rhyme about old man, bumped his head, couldn't get up in the morning. Two weeks later, couldn't get up in the morning. Went to see doctor. "Go get MRI." Got MRI, tech took one look, said "Go to ER now!" Went to ER. Doc took one look, said "Subdural hematoma!" Next morning, put to sleep. DOUBLE trepanation! Didn't hurt at all. Got well. Take home lesson: trepanation works, but recommend never, ever, DIY.

    Garth Sundem
    Perhaps the best comment I've had on any post, ever. I'm a better person for having read this.

    Garth Sundem, TED speaker, Wipeout loser and author of Brain Trust

    My neighbor almost trepanated her eye on a post at the gym and I suggested she instead tell people her husband got tired of her backtalk and whacked her.   Because DIY trepanation is just not cool any more.
    in the TV show Dead Like Me, one of the reaper characters had died doing self-trepanation with a power drill to achieve the permanent high.

    bad enough that people act like they have a hole in their head without being literal

    Garth Sundem
    I wonder what kind of bit you'd want? Maybe masonry? Or one of those circular disc cutters with the little teeth? I wonder how big the hole has to be? Not saying I'm on my way to Home Depot or anything. Just wondering...

    Garth Sundem, TED speaker, Wipeout loser and author of Brain Trust

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Trepanation – drilling a hole in the head ‘Our ancestors used trepanation to expel demons – now drilling a hole in the skull is being touted as a cure for dementia’. Arran Frood investigates with ‘Like a hole in the head’ at
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at