Medicine Studies

, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp 367–378 | Cite as

A Dark History: Memories of Lobotomy in the New Era of Psychosurgery

  • Jenell JohnsonEmail author
Original Paper


Deep brain stimulation has recently been identified as the “new frontier” in the surgical treatment of major depressive disorder. Powerful memories of the lobotomy era, however, pose a rhetorical challenge to clinical researchers who wish to make a case for its therapeutic future. For DBS advocates, establishing the relationship between these two treatments is not just a matter of telling a history; it also requires crafting persuasive arguments for the lineage of DBS that relate the new psychosurgery in some way to the old. Working from a rhetorical perspective, this article identifies and analyzes three strategies employed by DBS advocates to manage the memory of lobotomy, which it terms evolutionary, genealogical, and semantic. In conclusion, this article suggests that a rhetorical perspective might be brought to bear on the frequent calls for dialogue with regard to psychosurgery, which are meaningless without attention to the persuasive dynamics such dialogue entails.


Psychosurgery Lobotomy History Collective memory Deep brain stimulation Rhetoric 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Louisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA

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