Methods of their madness

May 27, 2010

In "Braving the elements" (20 May), Barbara Oakley forcefully describes the Portuguese neurologist and diplomat Antonio Egas Moniz as "spearheading" the use of frontal lobotomy. However, his method of leucotomy was far more precise than the crude ice-pick intervention advocated and administered by Walter Freeman to thousands of unanaesthetised patients in the US.

On the positive side, Moniz had in 19 developed the highly useful technique of cerebral angiography, which allows the visualisation of blood vessels in the brain.

In 1939, he was shot in the leg by a psychopath. Many may well regret that the patient's aim was not more accurate and wish that the mania for massive psychosurgery had never broken out.

Richard E. Rawles, Honorary research fellow in psychology, University College London.

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