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Highly controversial medical procedures where areas of the brain are destroyed or disabled through surgery as treatment for mental illness.

Psychosurgery involves severing or otherwise disabling areas of the brain to treat a personality disorder, behavior disorder or other mental illness. The most common form of psychosurgery is the lobotomy, where the nerves connecting the frontal lobes of the brain and the thalamus or hypothalamus are severed. Performed first in the late 1930s, by the 1940s lobotomies were recommended for patients diagnosed with schizophrenia, severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, severe depression, and uncontrollable aggressive behavior. Other psychosurgeries also involve severing nerve connections to the hypothalamus, since it plays a key role in controlling emotions. Psychosurgery has been recommended less frequently as more effective drugs for treatment of psychological disorders have been developed.

Further Reading

Rodgers, Joann Ellison. Psychosurgery: Damaging the Brain to Save the Mind. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1992.

Valenstein, Elliott S. The Psychosurgery Debate: Scientific, Legal, and Ethical Perspectives. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman, 1980.

Additional topics

Psychology EncyclopediaBranches of Psychology