Heartbeat in the Brain (partially found Amanda Fielding trepanation documentary; 1970)

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This article has been tagged as NSFL due to its disturbing subject matter/visuals.


Poster for the 1998 documentary about the original film.

Status: Partially Found

Heartbeat in the Brain is a 1970 documentary film about Amanda Feilding's self-trepanation operation. She is a British scientist, artist, and drug policy reformer best known for her research into consciousness and psychoactive drugs such cannabis, MDMA, LSD, and psilocybin, which she conducts through her non-profit organization, the Beckley Foundation. She is also an expert in the practice of trepanation, an ancient pseudo-medical procedure in which a small hole is cut out of the skull with the hopes of alleviating a variety of ailments or achieving a higher state of consciousness. These hypotheses have neither been medically proven nor is the practice recommended by doctors.

After failing to find a doctor willing to perform the operation on her, Feilding (then 27) performed the procedure on herself. The film was a collection of footage from the operation and of her pet pigeon, Birdie. Its first known public screening was in 1978, at the Suydam Gallery in New York, in which at least one audience member fainted.[1]

The film was thought by many to be completely lost due to its few screenings. However, the film was screened again in April 2011 at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. The entire film has never surfaced online, although several snippets can be seen in Eli Kabillio's 1998 documentary about the subject, A Hole in the Head.[2]

In 2021 new clips of the film surfaced in season 3 episode 6 of the show Hamilton's Pharmacopeia.