Thursday, October 24, 2019

Brain Busters: The History of Lobotomy and its Application to Neuroscience :: Biology Essays Research Papers

Brain Busters: The History of Lobotomy and its Application to Neuroscience "It seems possible that with additional experience and a minute study of the pathologic changes seen in the brain, the knife may be the means of restoring to reason many cases now considered incurable" --Emory Lamphear (1895) (5) In 1847 an Irish workman, Phineas Cage, shed new light on the field of neuroscience in a rock blasting accident which sent an iron rod through the frontal region of his brain. Miraculously enough, he survived the incident, but even more astonishing to the science community at the time were the marked changes in Cage’s personality after the rode punctured his brain. Where before Cage was characterized by his mild mannered nature, he had now become aggressive, rude and "indulging in the grossest profanity, which was not previously his custom, manifesting but little deference for his fellows, impatient of restraint or advice when it conflicts with his desires" (1) according to the Boston physician Harlow in 1868. However, Cage sustained no impairment with regards to his intelligence or memory (1). This incident provoked scientists to ask the question, "can alteration of the brain structure lead to differences in personality?" and if so, then "are there specialized reg ions of the brain responsible for the function of different elements of our personal character?" Thus, completely by chance, the foundational discoveries for the development of frontal lobotomy were laid. Beginning in the late 1800’s, experimental surgeries involving various incisions slicing or destroying parts of the frontal cortex were performed on a variety of subjects in an effort to produce a calming effect in their behavior. In 1935, Dr. John Fulton presented the results of his research on a pair of chimpanzees at a conference for neurology. Fulton had "removed completely the frontal lobes" (4) of the chimps and observed that after the surgery they appeared significantly calmer than before the operation as he was unable to "generate experimental forms of neurosis in the animals"(1). Attending this conference were two neuro-scientists, Egas Moniz and Walter Freeman, both of whom would become major figures in the practice of lobotomy. Egas Moniz was particularly fascinated by the idea of the behavioral changes in Fulton’s chimps and posed the shocking question, "If the frontal lobe removal prevents the development of experimental neurosis in animals and eliminates frustrational behavior, why would it not be possible to relieve anxiety states in man by surgical means?

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