Lobotomy (Greek: λοβός lobos "lobe (of brain)"; τομή tomē "cut, slice") is a neurosurgical procedure, a form ofpsychosurgery, also known as a leukotomy or leucotomy (from the Greek λευκός leukos "clear, white" and tomē). It consists of cutting or scraping away most of the connections to and from the prefrontal cortex, the anterior part of the frontal lobes of the brain.
The procedure, controversial from its inception, was a mainstream procedure in some Western countries for more than two decades (prescribed for psychiatric and occasionally other conditions) despite general recognition of frequent and serious side effects. While some patients experienced symptomatic improvement with the operation, this was achieved at the cost of creating other impairments, and this balance between benefits and risks contributed to the controversial nature of the procedure. The originator of the procedure, the Portuguese neurologist António Egas Moniz, shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine of 1949 for the "discovery of the therapeutic value of leucotomy in certain psychoses",[n 1] although the awarding of the prize has been subject to controversy.
The use of the procedure increased dramatically from the early 1940s and into the 1950s; by 1951, almost 20,000 lobotomies had been performed in the United States. Following the introduction of antipsychotic medications in the mid-1950s, lobotomies underwent a gradual but definite decline.