Previously published in Factoidz and Examiner
19th century treatment for the severely mentally ill
Unfortunately the emphasis remained on control rather than cure. If the patient was subdued, the life of the doctor and mental health attendants became easier, but the implications of questionable treatments that abused human rights or did nothing to cure the patient or even help the patient in any way was not the focus or zeigist (spirit of the times).
Trepanning was still practiced in the 19th century. Scientists became aware that an area of the brain, just behind the forehead, called the frontal cortex was implicated in the control of behaviour. They based their findings on animal experimentation and from observing the behavior of individuals who had suffered some kind of injury to this area of the brain. They observed changes in emotions and behaviour.
The incredible case of Phineas Gage – 1848
This case is noted in the annuals of neurology as one of the earliest cases of extreme brain injury, which affected human emotions, but not human intellect.
Phineas Gage was a foreman for a crew of railroad construction workers, he suffered a major accident when a crow bar like tool penetrated his brain. Gage miraculously recovered, but could no longer work as a foreman because his employers said his personality was so different and so erratic that he was no longer the man they knew. Read the complete story here:
This case undoubtably influenced the medical community with regards to brain injury, and the brain surgery techniques of the times.
On the up side, modern neurosurgery though very crude was born. In one sense the surgery was more humane. The methods for anesthesia, at least relieved some of the pain from the operation. However, we will see later on in the series that these pioneering methods of neurosurgery turned out to be far from humane.
Friederich Golz – 1890 – Neurosurgery Pioneer
Friederich Golz, a German researcher found that he could make dogs less aggressive by removing their temporal lobes. This research was very encouraging and lead to the possiblity that neurosurgery could benefit wild and uncontrolled behaviour in humans as well.
On the downside, there were those physcians who took advantage of the new methodology and seriously harmed their patients.
Montrealers have a wonderful world renown neurological hospital: The Montreal Neurological Institute.