Lobotomy or frontal leucotomy is a method in which the connections and pathways to the prefrontal cortex of the brain are blocked. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for the control, coordination, and memory functions of the brain. It has been a controversial procedure since its production to the world. The doctors believed that the patient would become easy to manage and lead them to become more calm and composed, but serious side effects were observed in patients. Amnesia, epilepsy, ad seizures were common side effects. Lobotomy even proved fatal in some of the patients. Despite getting mixed results from the procedure, lobotomy was widely accepted as a treatment due to the less availability of appropriate treatments for mental disorder patients during that time.
Disorders treated via lobotomy
- Bipolar Disorder – Bipolar Disorder was earlier known as manic depression. It is a mental illness in which the person experiences different kinds of mood swings. These mood swings range from extreme highs to extreme lows. There is no cure available but treatments are available to manage the symptoms of the illness
- Schizophrenia – Schizophrenia is a mental disorder in which a person experiences disordered thinking. This ultimately leads to hallucinations, delusions, etc. The person starts perceiving reality in a different manner which impairs the functioning of both body and mind.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder – It is an illness in which person experiences repeated unwanted thoughts which are termed obsessions. Obsession leads to repetitive behavior termed as compulsions. This ultimately leads to a significant amount of stress and anxiety.
Effects of lobotomy
- Reduced agitation – Lobotomy lead to the removal of stressors in the body, hence the person starts experiencing a more calm environment. The person becomes less violent and it becomes easy to handle them
- Composed behavior –This was the main reason behind the introduction of lobotomy. The person starts feeling less nervous and compulsive than before hence feeling more calm and collected. It is visible that they can hold their composure even without any surveillance.
Complications of lobotomy
- Seizure – Seizures were one of the most common side effects of the surgery. Due to excessive neuronal activity in the brain, the patient periodically felt a wide array of symptoms. These symptoms are loss of bladder control, uncontrolled shaking movements of the body, different levels of consciousness, and loss of consciousness.
- Reduced affection display – The patient can feel some form of emotion. Yet, they are not able to express it due to the emotional blunting caused by Lobotomy. The person is not able to express their emotions either verbally or via facial expressions. The loss of affection display leads to a major behavioral change. It gets hard for the family to maintain contact.
- Restricted intellectual range – The patient experiences a lack of critical mental function and remains unaffected. They are unresponsive towards their environment. This leads to inattentiveness and laziness.
- Lack of initiative – The patient feels dependent on other people’s directions for every chore and is unable to act without any guidance.
- Passivity – Passivity refers to the acceptance of whatever is happening with us and around us without any resistance. Due to the restricted intellectual range, patient acts passively and do not exhibit any control over themselves.
- Death – The procedure of lobotomy proved to be fatal in some of the patients. Many patients weren’t able to handle the surgery. The mortality rate was about 5-7 percent amongst the patients during the 1940s.
The procedure of lobotomy
Different types of procedures were available to perform the Lobotomy, the most widely used method was known as “Ice pick Lobotomy”. Compared to other procedures, ice pick lobotomy was faster, more effective, and required fewer resources to perform the procedure. Earlier, doctors used drills to crack a hole in the skull and disrupt the nerves of the frontal lobes, but in this procedure, doctors started using a hammer to insert an ice pick inside the patient’s brain through the eye sockets. Once the icepicks were inside, the doctor started moving the icepick around to destroy the pathways of the brain.
Prevalence and aftermath
Women were subjects of majority of these lobotomies.Concerns regarding the procedure of lobotomy steadily grew. The practice was termed ‘inhumane’ and many claimed that “through the lobotomy, we are not treating the patient but changing an insane person into an idiot”. Lobotomy achieved success at a breakneck speed and faced failure in the same manner. The Nobel committee awarded a Nobel prize to the scientists working behind lobotomy,a decision that remains controversial to date. The United States banned lobotomy by the year 1970 to preserve the patients rights. Doctors perform other psychotherapies such as electroconvulsive therapy, insulin shock therapy, deep sleep therapy, etc over patients.