Rethinking Old Experiments: Reading the Lobotomist

Mental illness is not a new thing. I started reading the Lobotomist, which is the story of the founder of lobotomies, and I think there are some really interesting findings. This is likely not new ground, but I think it’s important.

What actually got me started reading this book was some simple discoveries that I thought were important to explore. Namely, that some lobotomies were successful in helping patients. But others seriously harmed patients. I don’t think my previous model successfully accounted for this result. So while this was clearly bad science, something was proven here. If the mind was elastic and resilient, how could such a puncture permanently ruin the lives of so many. On the other hand, if the brain is only a physical conduit of software, how could we account for the cures and improvements of some patients. My previous model was flawed.

Walter Freeman, the lobotomist, essentially at one part in the book started sampling the brains of corpses of the mentally ill. The biggest takeaway from this study was that the schizophrenic patients’ brains looked normal according to Freeman. You’d think that such a serious malady would be something you could observe physically, like so many other brain disorders. But not this one.

So if the brain is appearing to function properly, is it? If these brains are functioning properly, what is going on? The terrifying possibility is that these symptoms may be real.

Perhaps this is the bridge between the hardware and software, the real and mental. Clearly the physical can affect the mental. And we know that the mental can affect the physical. Why these psychological surgeries are certainly not the answer, they show us something important: the brain can be influenced by physical trauma.

And if this is true, I think that we must conclude that there is no reason to conclude that these conditions that could be caused by physical trauma must have been caused by spiritual or psychological trauma.

There is more to the story.

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