25 Petrifying and Brutal Facts About Lobotomies

Lobotomy, also known as leucotomy, is a neurosurgical operation that involves severing connections in the brain’s prefrontal lobe. Doctors first began manipulating the brain in the late 1880s in an attempt to calm patients.

Swiss physician Gottlieb Burkhardt removed parts of the cortex from the brains of patients with auditory hallucinations and other symptoms of schizophrenia, noting that it made them calmer. However, the procedure led to the death of one patient with another committing suicide. Regardless, it is considered one of the most barbaric procedures ever used on people with mental illnesses.

Unfortunately, lobotomies were widely performed for more than two decades as a treatment for schizophrenia, manic depression, and bipolar disorder, among other mental illnesses. This happened because when the procedure was invented there were no beneficial ways to treat mental illness.

People were looking for “pretty desperate” kinds of intervention. Thankfully, with the rise of pharmacology and various medications, lobotomies are no longer a common practice. These are 25 Petrifying and Brutal Facts About Lobotomies. 

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On November 12, 1935, a Portuguese neurosurgeon, Almeida Lima, performed the first human lobotomy, using alcohol injections to destroy the brain tissue.

alcohol injectionsSource: psychcentral.com, Image: Wikipedia

This procedure had been proposed by his Nobel Prize–winning colleague, Egas Moniz, as a result of a lecture he attended given by the American neurologist John Fulton earlier that year.

Nobel PrizeSource: psychcentral.com, Image: Wikipedia


Moniz became the first Portuguese person in history to receive a Nobel Prize for his discovery of the therapeutic value of leucotomy in certain psychoses.

António Egas MonizSource: psychcentral.com, Image: Wikipedia

As for the first prefrontal lobotomy in the United States, it was performed in 1936 on sixty-three-year-old Alice Hood Hammatt by Drs. Walter Freeman and James Watts. They also modified Moniz’s technique and introduced frontal lobotomies to America.

first lobotomySource: psychcentral.com, Image: commons.wikimedia.org


The most common tool doctors used to perform lobotomies was an ice pick. One of Dr. Freeman’s sons claimed that the first ice picks used in his father’s lobotomies were from their kitchen. Dr. Freeman would hammer an ice pick into each frontal lobe through the back of the eye socket. Ouch!

EyeSource: psychcentral.com, Image: Wikipedia

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