lobotomies,

i realize this is in part due to me attending university and having the time/resources which i devote to researching lgbt history…but jesus. the more you learn about this stuff, the less patience you have for “queer community”, entry-level, “you got mogai on your phone” shit! 

like in full seriousness: lesbians and gay men were given lobotomies to try and cure them of being “filthy homosexuals.” how can you sit and type “LGs” or “dirty allos” like. how can you. i realize on some level there’s a lack of education going on but think for five seconds about the historical context behind what you’re saying. how can you. how.

This is how a lobotomy was performed in the early 1900’s. In case you didn’t already know, a lobotomy is when doctors severed the frontal cortex from the rest of the brain. They believed they could calm a person’s emotions & stabilize their personalities. We now know lobotomies were more harmful than helpful.

One method was the “ice pick” method. Doctors used an orbitoclast, that resembled an ice pick, to go through the top of the eye socket.  They could enter the brain just by tapping lightly on the orbitoclast with a hammer to break through the thin layer of bone. Then they would twirl it to cut through the fibers. After pulling out the orbitoclast, the procedure was repeated on the other side. The transorbital lobotomy took 10 minutes or less. (Source & More Information)

Morgue and autopsy theatre at St. Elizabeths Hospital, designed by Walter Freeman.  Before he became famous for inventing the transorbital lobotomy, Freeman was the medical director at this, the only federal insane asylum.  He was obsessed with the organic roots of mental illness, and commissioned Blackburn Laboratory in order to further study it.  This autopsy theatre is now abandoned in the basement.  The jars in the rear to the left used to contain the largest collection of human brains in America; when the morgue was abandoned they were donated to another institution.  After leaving St. Elizabeths, Freeman would tour the country in his “lobotomobile”, performing thousands of lobotomies at other asylums in order to demonstrate the supposed effectiveness of his technique.  He was ordered to stop after killing a patient.  Freeman was never, in fact, a trained surgeon.

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At the age of 12, Howard Dully was subjected to the unnecessary procedure of a lobotomy, thanks in part to his stepmother, who couldn’t handle a normal pre-teen boy. Dr. Walter Freeman claimed that Howard had childhood schizophrenia, when other doctors that have seen him never came to that diagnosis. It has taken Howard decades to recover from the surgery. He lived his life in institutions, he was incarcerated, homeless and even an alcoholic. He finally sobered up and got a college degree. He has since researched what happened to him and has even written his memoirs, with the help of Charles Flemming. He is now a talk show host on National Public Radio, where he speaks to other lobotomy victims.

How Lobotomies Work

The lobotomy is a type of neurosurgery, or surgery performed on the brain, known as psychosurgery. The idea behind psychosurgery is that severe forms of mental illness can be treated by changing the way that the brain works. Doctors believed that by severing the connections that the frontal lobes, or prefrontal cortex, had to the rest of the brain, they could calm patients’ emotions and stabilize their personalities without doing away with their intelligence and motor functions.

The prefrontal cortex serves a number of complex functions in the brain, usually called executive functions. (Higher-level decision making and planning, reasoning and understanding, personality expression, creativity and behaving in a socially acceptable way all fit under this category.) The prefrontal cortex is connected to many other regions of the brain, including the thalamus, which receives and relays sensory signals.

The brain is essentially composed of two different types of matter: gray and white. Gray matter includes the neurons, or brain cells, along with their blood vessels and extensions. White matter comprises the axons, or nerve fibers, that connect the areas of gray matter and carry messages between them through electrical impulses. So a lobotomy was intended to sever the white matter between different areas of gray matter. (Another name for lobotomy, leucotomy, means “slice/cut white” in Greek.)

In the United States, about 50,000 patients were lobotomized, most of them between 1949 and 1956. The man who perfected what became the standard of lobotomies, Dr. Walter Freeman, called them “soul surgery” and claimed that they could be used to treat not only schizophrenia, but depression, chronic pain and other mental and physical conditions. Freeman, and other doctors who performed lobotomies, believed that they could relieve suffering. In some cases, they did.

Read on

Lobotomy
The idea behind psychosurgery is that severe forms of mental illness (schizophrenia being the most common) can be treated by changing the way the brain works. Doctors believed that by severing the connections of the frontal lobes or prefrontal cortex, had to the rest of the brain, they could calm patients’ emotions and stabilize their personalities without doing away with their intelligence and motor functions. The lobotomy was granted the Nobel Prize and is still a controversial subject to this day!

Source: How Lobotomies Work, Shanna Freeman

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Effects of Lobotomies

The results of early lobotomies were difficult to interpret, because the people receiving lobotomies were already psychotic, seriously disturbed and out of touch with reality. In the late 1940s lobotomies were used on a new group: people suffering severe intractable pain : pain unresponsive to any form of treatment. Doctors had noticed that psychotic patients receiving lobotomies no longer complained of pain afterward. So it seemed lobotomies might be useful for people who suffered from pain alone, without any sort of psychological disorder. At first this seemed to be a success. Dynes (1950) wrote, “The patient [after lobotomy] was unconcerned about pain and in practically all instances he was no longer anxious and fearful as he had been prior to the lobotomy.”

When pain patients were given lobotomies, what symptoms were discovered?

However, as time went on, some disastrous consequences were discovered. Dynes found that some patients were “slowed up in thinking and acting, they were dull, at times completely lacking in emotional expression or display and showed a striking reduction in interest and driving energy.” Others receiving the same operation were “uninhibited and euphoric and they were somewhat restless with a purposeless type of activity.”

What does it mean to be “stimulus-bound”??

Lobotomy patients were said to act stimulus-bound. They reacted to whatever was in front of them and did not respond to imaginary situations, rules, or plans for the future. Many of the patients became fat. If food was set in front of them, they ate, hungry or not. Some of the patients grew sexually promiscuous; they pursued immediate gratification without regard for consequences. Few of the lobotomy patients could plan effectively for the future or sustain goal-oriented activities. A goal requires that complicated plans be held in mind, and this was evidently beyond the capacity of lobotomy patients, who tended to be distracted by immediate stimuli. (Source)