From psychosurgery to neuromodulation and palliation: history's lessons for the ethical conduct and regulation of neuropsychiatric research

Neurosurg Clin N Am. 2003 Apr;14(2):303-19, ix-x. doi: 10.1016/s1042-3680(02)00118-3.


As we contemplate the emerging era of neuromodulation and imagine the utility of deep brain stimulation for disease entities in neurology and psychiatry, our enthusiasm is immediately tempered by history. Just a generation ago, other confident investigators were heralding invasive somatic therapies like prefrontal lobotomy to treat psychiatric illness. That era of psychosurgery ended with widespread condemnation, congressional calls for a ban, and avow that history should never repeat itself. Now, just 30 years later, neurologists, neurosurgeons, and psychiatrists are implanting deep brain stimulators for the treatment of Parkinson's disease and contemplating their use for severe psychiatric illnesses, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and the modulation of consciousness in traumatic brain injury.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / ethics*
  • Biomedical Research / history
  • Brain / surgery*
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / history*
  • Mental Disorders / surgery
  • Palliative Care / history*
  • Palliative Care / methods
  • Psychosurgery / ethics
  • Psychosurgery / history*
  • Psychosurgery / instrumentation
  • United States