Forensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 259–264 | Cite as

Frontal lobotomy

  • Roger W. ByardEmail author
Lessons from the Museum

“Primum non nocere” - first do no harm


The use of surgical techniques to treat psychological conditions, so-called psychosurgery, has been a feature of therapeutic interventions in many societies since Neolithic times, with the earliest known trephined skull found in Alsace, France, dating to 5100 BC [1, 2]. Trepanation, or trephination, was a technique characterized by the removal of portions of skull that has been found in ossuaries from Europe and Asia to South America and even in parts of Australia [3, 4, 5]. In a series of 288 skulls from the Andes in Southern Peru there were 24 (8%) with trepanations, 13 (54%) of which were healing [6], with an estimated survival rate of 70% [7]. It was allegedly used to treat headaches, epilepsy and a variety of other neurological conditions [8], with reports from Salernitanus in the twelfth century stating that breaching the skull in cases of mania allowed “noxious material to exhale to the outside”. Burton in his seventeenth...


Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by the author.


This study was not funded.

Conflict of interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of Adelaide Medical SchoolAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.Discipline of Anatomy and Pathology, Level 3 Medical School North BuildingThe University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

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