Definition of Lobotomy

Reviewed on 6/3/2021

Lobotomy: A neurosurgical procedure performed in the past that involved severing the nerve fibers that connect the prefrontal cortex (the anterior and frontal lobes of the brain) to other parts of the brain. The procedure was developed in the late 1930s and was widely performed beginning in the 1940s as a treatment for different types of behavioral and mental problems such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. There were a number of different surgical techniques used to accomplish the destruction of the nerve fibers, with one of the most well-known being the transorbital lobotomy, in which a surgical instrument was passed through the eye socket. The procedure came to be abused by many practitioners and was promoted by some as a way to control undesirable behavior.

By 1950, the procedure was beginning to fall out of favor, both because of a lack of scientific evidence that the patients improved following the surgery as well as the development of more effective medications for the treatment of psychiatric disorders. The procedure is rarely, if ever, performed today.


What's Your Biggest Fear? Phobias See Slideshow
"Moniz Develops Lobotomy for Mental Illness." A Science Odyssey: People and Discoveries. PBS. <>.

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