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What is psychosurgery, and how is it used today?

What is psychosurgery, and how is it used today?

Psychosurgery refers to brain surgery performed to change a person’s behavior and emo- tional state. This is a drastic step, especially because the effects of psychosurgery are diffi- cult to predict. In a prefrontal lobotomy, the frontal lobes of the brain are severed from the deeper centers beneath them. The assumption is that in extremely disturbed people, the electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) Biological therapy in which a mild electrical current is passed through the brain for a short period, often producing convulsions and temporary coma; used to treat severe, prolonged depression.

psychosurgery Brain surgery performed to change a person’s behavior and emotional state; a biological therapy rarely used today.

frontal lobes intensify emotional impulses from the lower brain centers (chiefly, the thala- mus and hypothalamus). Unfortunately, lobotomies can work with one person and fail completely with another—possibly producing permanent, undesirable side effects, such as the inability to inhibit impulses or a near-total absence of feeling.

Prefrontal lobotomies are rarely performed today (Greely, 2007). In fact, very few psy- chosurgical procedures are done, except as desperate attempts to control such conditions as intractable psychoses, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy that does not respond to other treat- ments (see Chapter 2, “Biological Bases of Behavior”), severe obsessive–compulsive disor- ders, and pain in a terminal illness (Shawanda Anderson & Booker, 2006; Weingarten & Cummings, 2001).

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