History of functional neurosurgery

Neurosurg Clin N Am. 1995 Jan;6(1):1-25.


Whereas in the early days of evil spirits, electric catfish, and phrenology, functional neurosurgery was based on crude observations and dogma, the progress made in neurophysiology at the turn of the century gave the field a strong scientific foundation. Subsequently, the advent of stereotaxis allowed access to deep brain regions and contributed an element of precision. Future directions include the development of frameless stereotaxy; the use of MRI-generated anatomic data, which would circumvent the serious problem of individual variations seen with standard brain atlases; the introduction of various chemicals into brain structures, in an attempt to influence neurochemically mediated disease processes; and finally, the use of the promising techniques of neural transplantation. On hearing of Penfield's intraoperative brain stimulations, Sherrington commented: "It must be great fun to have the physiological preparation speak to you." The idea of therapeutic neurophysiologic interventions is appealing, especially because many disorders show no obvious treatable pathologic cause (e.g., tumor, vascular malformation). As stereotactic technology becomes less cumbersome and more precise, more sophisticated in vivo neurophysiologic preparations become possible. In turn, as our understanding of nervous system physiology grows, our ability to understand pathophysiology and treat disease processes increases.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Endocrine Glands / surgery
  • Epilepsy / history
  • Epilepsy / surgery
  • History, 17th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / history
  • Mental Disorders / surgery
  • Nervous System Diseases / history
  • Nervous System Diseases / surgery
  • Neurosurgery / history*
  • Pain / history
  • Pain / surgery
  • Stereotaxic Techniques / history