Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The return of the lobotomy? Plus, electroshock therapy? Medicine marches forward, and back

I suppose the title of Benedict Carey's piece for the New York Times, Wariness on Surgery of the Mind speaks a caution that isn't present in most of the Olaf stories. Still, the techniques described in the article are not unlike the ones we've tried in the past:
In 2009, the government approved one surgical technique for certain severe cases of obsessive-compulsive disorder, or O.C.D. For the first time since frontal lobotomy fell into disrepute in the 1950s, surgery for behavior problems seemed back on the road to the medical mainstream.
Dr. Joseph J. Fins, quoted in the article, refers to the past when he responds: “With the legacy of psychosurgery, it’s important that we don’t misrepresent things as therapy when they’re not.”

So, fifty years have past since the infamous frontal lobotomy, and we're still not sure about how and when best to operate on the brain. The article goes on to discuss deep brain stimulation (D.B.S.), in which "a surgeon sinks wires deep into the brain and leaves them in place." The use of such a treatment is also controversial, though I'm happy to see that the current device is not nearly as imposing as the magneto Dr. Steenwycks used back in the late 19th century.

Mostly, though, the article points out that most people agree that more testing needs to be done. When I think about my brain and what might be best for it, I have to admit, that makes sense to me.

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