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What is a Lobotomy?

The brain is the most complex part of our anatomy and for a long time it was a complete mystery. Since the 1950s though, we have learned a lot more about this part of the body and we have more options to deal with problems originating from it. The most well known type of brain surgery is the lobotomy. This involves removing or damaging a part of the brain known as the frontal cortex.  During the forties and fifties there were almost 20,000 lobotomies performed. Hardly any are performed these days.

Although we tend to associate the lobotomy with the middle part of the 20th century it was actually performed back in the 19th century. It is believed to have been first attempted in Switzerland back in 1892. The results of this early attempt at this surgery failed to impress but within fifty years the technique was refined.

Reasons for a Lobotomy

These days the lobotomy is not such a popular procedure. It can take away an individual’s whole personality and there are usually better options for most problems. It was once common to use this procedure to deal with behavioral issues such as depression and schizophrenia. The aim was to cut out the part of the brain where the problem was occurring from. As well as removing the problem though, this procedure also destroyed a lot more in the process.

Although these days we can view the lobotomy as cruel and unnecessary it is possible to understand why they were once attractive as a treatment option. This surgery could have great results in dealing with unwanted behavior and at the time there didn’t seem to be a better option. We have learned a lot more since then though and this type of solution will hardly ever be considered, no matter how bad the behavioral problem.

The Importance of the Frontal Cortex

A lobotomy is performed on the prefrontal cortex and this is a very important part of the brain. This area of the brain is associated with behavior and personality. It is also the home of decision making and it is from here that the individual is able to make choices in regards to the most appropriate social behavior. Therefore any damage to the frontal cortex will have a profound impact on the individual and who they are.

Some Final Thoughts on the Lobotomy

Although people will tend to look back at the lobotomy as a barbaric treatment it was still an important development. It is unlikely that we would understand so much about the brain and how it affects our behavior without such surgery. Although we no longer perform a lobotomy surgeons may still destroy parts of the brain in order to help fix problems. This is known as psychosurgery and it is much more precise than just removing chunks of the brain. This new technique has helped many people without damaging their personality. Of course with all types of brain surgery there is always the risk that things will go wrong.