A lobotomy is a radical form of neurosurgery used to alleviate mental health conditions or conditions previously believed to be mental health conditions, including schizophrenia, bipolar, delusions, and epilepsy. The term may also be used colloquially by some people to refer to any kind of neurosurgery.

History of Lobotomy
Lobotomies sever one portion of the brain from nerve pathways in other portions of the brain. They are typically performed on the prefrontal cortex, though may be performed in other areas of the brain. The procedure has been around for at least a hundred years, and early lobotomy practices were quite barbaric. A doctor might, for example, insert a pick into the brain through the eye of a patient to sever a nerve pathway. Because of this barbarism, and because lobotomies were often performed on people who did not or could not consent, and because results can be unpredictable, lobotomies were and remain controversial procedures.

The procedure became increasingly common between the 1940s and 1960s when neurosurgeons discovered that severing the corpus callosum—the area that connects the left and right brain hemispheres—might help improve symptoms of epilepsy. Lobotomies also continued to be performed on people to alleviate the symptoms of other mental health conditions.

Lobotomies are generally no longer performed, but doctors may sever the corpus callosum in extremely severe cases of epilepsy. This surgery is extraordinarily rare, and still has unpredictable results.

Lobotomy and Psychiatry Critique
Many critics of psychiatry have pointed to lobotomies as evidence of the abuses inflicted on patients by psychiatrists. The fact that the procedure was common in recent generations is particularly disconcerting, and some critics argue that other procedures—such as electroconvulsive therapy—will one day be treated with the same disdain that lobotomies currently receive.


  1. Freeman, W. (n.d.). Lobotomy and Epilepsy. Lobotomy and Epilepsy. Retrieved from http://www.neurology.org/content/3/7/479.extract
  2. Kring, A. M., Johnson, S. L., Davison, G. C., & Neale, J. M. (2010). Abnormal psychology. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
  3. Lobotomy. (n.d.). Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/345502/lobotomy

Last Updated: 04-18-2016

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