Lobotomy - Dream Health

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Thursday, 21 May 2015


Lobotomy – Neurosurgical Operation

Lobotomy is also known as leucotomy and is a neurosurgical operation involving separating the connections in the brain’s prefrontal lobe as per Encyclopaedia Britannica. It has always been debated, though was widely performed for over two decades as treatment for schizophrenia, manic depression and bipolar disorder beside several other mental illnesses.

According to Dr Barron Lerner, a medical historian as well as professor at NYU Medical Centre in New York, lobotomy was considered as an umbrella term for a series of various operations which had damaged the brain tissue, to treat mental illness. He states that lobotomy was invented when there were no suitable ways of treating mental disorder and the people looked forward desperately for some type of intervention.
Inspite of it all, there were often criticisms of the procedure.He further adds that `the behaviour they thought of trying to fix, were set down in neurological connections and the idea was that if one could damage these connections, it could stop the bad behaviour’.

Invention of Lobotomy - 1935

Initially, the doctors began manipulating the brain to calm the person towards the late 1880s when Gottlieb Burkhardt, the Swiss physician, removed some parts of the cortex of the brains of patient having auditory hallucinations and other symptoms of schizophrenia. He observed that this calmed the patient according to Encyclopaedia Britannica, though one died and another committed suicide after the procedure. Antonio Egas Moniz, the Portuguese neurologist, has been credited for the invention of lobotomy in 1935 for which he shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1949. Later, a movement took place to revoke the prize which turned out to be unsuccessful.

John Fulton, a Yale neuroscientist, together with his colleague Carlyle Jacobsen performed lobotomy like process on chimpanzees in 1935. Later that year, Moniz with his colleague Almeida Lima performed the first human experiments and the frontal lobes were targeted due to their connection with behaviour and personality. Moniz had reported the success of the treatment for patients with the conditions like depressions, panic disorder, schizophrenia and mania as per an article published in 2011 in the Journal of Neurosurgery.

Severe Side Effects

However, the operation had severe side effects which included high temperature, bladder and bowel incontinence, vomiting and eye problems together with lethargy and abnormal sensations of hunger, besides other effects. Though initially, the medical community were critical of the procedure, the physicians began using it in various countries around the world.

The procedures involved making a hole in the skull and injecting ethanol in the brain in order to do away with the fibres which connected the frontal lobe to various parts of the brain. Moniz, later on introduced a surgical treatment known as leucotome that contained a loop of wire which rotated creating a circular lesion in the brain.

This practice subsided in mid 1950s since scientists created antipsychotic and antidepressant medication which turned out to be effective. Presently mental illness is treated with drugs and where drugs do not tend to be effective; they are treated with electroconvulsive therapy which involves passing electrical currents through the brain to generate a brief seizure as per Mayo Clinic. Lerner informs that currently, lobotomy is rarely performed and if it is, it is then a much more elegant procedure.

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