My last place of work blocked huge swathes of the web, meaning I’m discovering I’ve missed some blog posts recently, including this wonderful Neurophilosophy article on the rise and fall of prefrontal lobotomy.
It’s a fantastic tour through the history of how the procedure was developed, popularised and abandoned.
It aptly illustrates that medical history has been driven as much by personalities as by evidence, something which has only seriously been addressed in the last half-century by systematic trials and evidence reviews, largely due to the work of Archie Cochrane.
The article does have one quirk, where it equates early antipsychotic drug chlorpromazine with ‘psychosurgery gone wrong’.
Despite some serious and unpleasant side-effects (including movement disorders, sedation, weight-gain and dizziness), there is a large amount of evidence for its effectiveness in schizophrenia, and, in fact, was the first effective treatment for psychosis.
Even ignoring the brutal nature of the procedure, lobotomy was not even proven to be a useful ‘treatment’ by anything that would be accepted as reliable evidence today.
It is, however, an important chapter in the history of neuroscience, not least for what it tells us about how individuals can have such an influence on mainstream practice.
Link to article ‘The rise & fall of the prefrontal lobotomy’.