What is a lobotomy?

Psychotherapy, medication, and other treatments have virtually completed the replaced lobotomies.

A lobotomy is a surgical procedure that involves removing or damaging parts of the frontal cortex. Lobotomies have historically been used to treat patients with psychological illnesses and behavioral disorders; by the 1950s they were largely phased out and replaced by medication, psychotherapy and other forms of treatment. As a general rule, lobotomies are not performed today and many people think they are actually quite barbaric.

The frontal cortex, or frontal lobe, of the brain is removed or partially damaged in a lobotomy.

When performed successfully, a lobotomy can result in significant behavioral changes for the patient. For psychotic patients, lobotomies were sometimes beneficial, calming the patient so that he could live a relatively normal life. Lobotomies are also famous for causing a flat effect and general decrease in responsiveness; this has been seen as a benefit of lobotomy historically by some proponents of the procedure.

Lobotomies were historically used to treat patients suffering from psychological illnesses.

However, lobotomies can also go very wrong. The brain is an extremely delicate and very complex organ, and in the era when lobotomies were performed, people did not know much about the brain as they did not have the benefit of a wide range of scientific tools to visualize the brain and its activities. In the worst case scenario, a lobotomy could cause death, but it could also cause serious brain damage, resulting in what was essentially a delay in the patient. Patients can also slip into coma and persistent vegetative states after lobotomies.

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Patients can go into coma and persistent vegetative states after lobotomies.

The first lobotomies appear to have been performed in 1892, when Dr. Gottlieb Burckhardt experienced what he called a leucotomy in Switzerland. Two of his patients died, so the procedure could hardly be considered a resounding success, but it planted the seeds for Portuguese doctors Antonio Moniz and Almeida Lima, who worked on a version of lobotomy in the 1930s that involved drilling holes in the patient’s skull. and injecting alcohol into the frontal cortex to kill part of the brain. Moniz actually won a Nobel Prize in 1949 for this work.

Lobotomies have caused some patients to enter a persistent vegetative state.

When the leucotomy crossed the lake to the United States, where it was perfected by Dr. Walter Freeman, the name changed to “lobotomy”. Freeman discovered that it was possible to access the frontal cortex through the eye sockets, performing a so-called “ice pick lobotomy,” which essentially scrambled the brain’s connections.

By the 1950s, doctors were turning to less extreme methods to treat patients with psychiatric disorders, and by the 1970s, lobotomy had been banned in most of the developed world. Today, doctors sometimes perform what is known as psychosurgery, a form of neurosurgery that involves selective destruction of the brain, to treat very specific conditions. Generally, this surgery is treated as a last resort alternative.

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