Doctors first began manipulating the brain to calm patients in the late 1880s, when the Swiss physician Gottlieb Burkhardt removed parts of the cortex of the brains of patients with auditory hallucinations and other symptoms of schizophrenia, noting that it made them calm
The first procedures involved cutting a hole in the skull and injecting ethanol into the brain to destroy the fibers that connected the frontal lobe to other parts of the brain. Later, Moniz introduced a surgical instrument called a leucotome, which contains a loop of wire that, when rotated, creates a circular lesion in the brain.
About 50,000 lobotomies were performed in the United States, and Freeman himself performed between 3,500 and 5,000.
While a small percentage of people supposedly got better or stayed the same, for many people, lobotomy had negative effects on a patient's personality, initiative, inhibitions, empathy and ability to function on their own.
"The main long-term side effect was mental dullness," Lerner said. People could no longer live independently, and they lost their personalities, he said.
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