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One of the most shameful episodes in the history of psychology is the use of frontal lobotomies. Despite very scant evidence of their effectiveness - and in spite of much evidence of serious negative after-effects - lobotomies were standard procedure through the US and Europe for around two decades, until the mid-1950s.

In the US, around 40,000 people underwent a procedure that involved cutting away connections between the prefrontal cortex and the frontal lobes of the brain.

Initially lobotomies were performed by drilling holes into the skull, until the American physician Walter Freeman discovered that he could reach the frontal lobes through the eye sockets, by hammering a long metal pick into the bone and then into the brain.

The procedure was extremely dangerous - some patients died, others became brain damaged or committed suicide.


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