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Lobotomy (Greek: λοβός – lobos: "lobe (of brain)"; τομή – tomē: "cut/slice") is a neurosurgical procedure, also known as a leukotomy or leucotomy in which most of the connections to and from the prefrontal cortex of the brain are cut or scraped away. 

On 12 November 1935 at the Hospital Santa Marta in Lisbon, António Egas Moniz, initiated the first of a series of operations on the brains of the mental ill.  Though controversial, it was a mainstream procedure for more than two decades prescribed for psychiatric conditions despite general recognition of serious side-effects.

The originator, António Egas Moniz, shared a Nobel Prize in 1949 for the "discovery of the therapeutic value of leucotomy in certain psychoses".

 In 1927 Moniz developed cerebral angiography, a technique allowing blood vessels in and around the brain to be visualized; in various forms it remains a fundamental tool both in diagnosis and in the planning of surgeries on the brain.

For this, he was nominated twice for the Nobel Prize.[4] He also contributed to the development of Thorotrast for use in the procedure and contributed many lectures and papers on the subject.[5] He is considered a pioneer in the field.[6]

 Use of the procedure increased dramatically in some countries from the early 1940s and into the 1950s; by 1951, almost 20,000 lobotomies had been performed in the United States. Following the introduction of antipsychotic medications in the mid-1950s lobotomy underwent a gradual but definite decline.


In the United States approximately 40,000 people were lobotomized. In Great Britain 17,000 lobotomies were performed, and the three Nordic countries of Finland, Norway, and Sweden had a combined figure of approximately 9,300 lobotomies.[121] Scandinavian hospitals lobotomized 2.5 times as many people per capita as hospitals in the US.[122] Sweden lobotomized at least 4,500 people between 1944 and 1966, mainly women. This figure includes young children.[123] In Norway there were 2,500 known lobotomies.[124] In Denmark there were 4,500 known lobotomies, mainly young women, as well as mentally retarded children.[125] By the late 1970s the practice of lobotomy had generally ceased.

In 1948 Norbert Wiener, the author of Cybernetics: Or the Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine, said: "[P]refrontal lobotomy... has recently been having a certain vogue, probably not unconnected with the fact that it makes the custodial care of many patients easier. Let me remark in passing that killing them makes their custodial care still easier."[131]

In 1977 the US Congress created the National Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research to investigate allegations that psychosurgery—including lobotomy techniques—were used to control minorities and restrain individual rights. It also investigated the after-effects of surgery. The committee concluded that some extremely limited and properly performed psychosurgery could have positive effects.[137]

There have been calls[when?] for the Nobel Foundation to rescind the prize it awarded to Moniz for developing the lobotomy, a decision that has been called an astounding error of judgment at the time and one that psychiatry might still need to learn from, but the Foundation declined to take action and has continued to host an article defending the results of the procedure.[138] [3]

The lobotomy procedure can have severe negative effects on a patient's personality and ability to function independently.[127]

 Lobotomy patients often show a marked reduction in initiative and inhibition.[128] They may also exhibit difficulty putting themselves in the position of others because of decreased cognition and detachment from society.[129][further explanation needed]

Tennessee Williams criticised lobotomy in his play Suddenly, Last Summer because it was sometimes inflicted on homosexuals—to render them "morally sane".[3]

A 1937 report detailed that in the United States there were then 477 psychiatric institutions with a total population of approximately 451,672 patients, almost half of whom had been resident for a period of five years or more.[4] The report also observed that psychiatric patients occupied 55 per cent of all hospital beds in America.[4] Conditions within US mental hospitals became the subject of public debate as a series of exposes were published in the 1940s.[5] A Life magazine article which appeared in 1946 remarked that the nation's system of mental hospitals resembled "little more than concentration camps on the Belsen pattern";[6] a point which was emphasised in the piece through the use of documentary photography depicting scenes of patient neglect and the dilapidated material conditions within psychiatric institutions.[7]

In 1949, Moniz was shot by a patient, and subsequently used a wheelchair.[10][11][12] He continued in private practice until 1955, when he died just as his procedure was falling into disrepute

One of the earliest uses of methamphetamine was during World War II, when it was used by Axis and Allied forces.[103] The company Temmler produced methamphetamine under the trademarkPervitin and so did the German and Finnish militaries. It was also dubbed "Pilot's chocolate" or "Pilot's salt".[104] It was widely distributed across rank and division, from elite forces to tank crews and aircraft personnel, with many millions of tablets being distributed throughout the war.[105] Its use by German Panzer crews also led to it being known as "Panzerschokolade" ("Panzer chocolate" or "tankers' chocolate").[106][107] More than 35 million three-milligram doses of Pervitin were manufactured for the German army and air force between April and July 1940.[108] From 1942 until his death in 1945, Adolf Hitler was given intravenous injections of methamphetamine by his personal physician Theodor Morell. It is possible that it was used to treat Hitler's speculated Parkinson's disease, or that his Parkinson-like symptoms that developed from 1940 onwards resulted from using methamphetamine.[109] In Japan, methamphetamine was sold under the registered trademark of Philopon (ヒロポン[110] hiropon[111]) by Dainippon Pharmaceuticals (present-day Dainippon Sumitomo Pharma [DSP]) for civilian and military use. As with the rest of the world at the time, the side effects of methamphetamine were not well studied, and regulation was not seen as necessary. In the 1940s and 1950s the drug was widely administered to Japanese industrial workers to increase their productivity.[112]

Methamphetamine and amphetamine were given to Allied bomber pilots during World War II to sustain them by fighting off fatigue and enhancing focus during long flights. The experiment failed because soldiers became agitated, could not channel their aggression and showed impaired judgment.[101] Rather, dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine) became the drug of choice for American bomber pilots, being used on a voluntary basis by roughly half of the U.S. Air Force pilots during the Persian Gulf War, a practice which came under some media scrutiny in 2003 after a mistaken attack on Canadian troops.[113]