Psychosurgery: A historical overview

Robert P. Feldman, James T. Goodrich

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


NEUROSURGICAL TREATMENT FOR psychiatric disorders has a long and controversial history. From the Stone Age use of trephining to release the demons of the spirit to the millimeter accuracy of stereotactic instruments currently used in the operating room, psychosurgery has enjoyed enthusiastic support as well as experiencing scorn. Today, psychosurgery is a minimally invasive and highly selective treatment that is performed for only a few patients with severe, treatment-refractory, affective, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorders. Recent advances in technology and functional neuroanatomic techniques, as well as economic pressures to decrease the costs of caring for chronically ill patients, may provide an opportunity for psychosurgery to become a more attractive option for the treatment of psychiatric diseases. In this historical overview, the rise and fall of psychosurgery are described. A better understanding of the colorful history of this interesting topic should enable modern neurosurgeons and other health care professionals to meet the social, ethical, and technical challenges that are sure to lie ahead.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)647-659
Number of pages13
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 19 2001


  • History
  • Limbic system surgery
  • Psychosurgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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