Brain surgery

What was Antonio Egas Moniz contribution to medicine?

Answer: Dr. Antonio Egas Moniz was best known for developing the frontal lobotomy as a treatment for psychiatric disorders.

antonio egas moniz leukotomy brain lobotomy

Dr. Moniz was a Portuguese neurologist who worked in the controversial field of psychosurgery. In his view, invasive and destructive brain surgery was an effective method of curing a patient of psychiatric disorders. He developed the prefrontal lobotomy, where connections to the prefrontal cortex were severed by the surgeon. The process is sometimes also called a leukotomy. The first frontal lobotomy was performed in 1935 by Dr. Almeida Lima. The treatment regime prescribed for a wide variety of patients with non-typical brains, including those with depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, and learning disabilities. Although this procedure is very controversial, he shared a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1949.

Moniz believed that abnormal connectivity with the frontal lobe contributed to psychiatric disturbances. Moniz used knowledge from previous observations in other clinical cases to arrive at his conclusion. For example, he cited the changes in Phineas Gage’s behavior and personality after his freak accident that destroyed his frontal lobes. Moniz himself never conducted any surgeries; he directed neurosurgeons how the process was to be done.

Naturally, the leukotomy procedure was considered to be very controversial. Moniz had reported that the condition of some people had improved after the surgery, or no change. However, these reports were not considered objective. The negative changes in response to the surgery were often understated in his reports.

Although the surgery left many individuals in a much worse state than before, the major benefit of Moniz’ treatment was to continue looking into the brain as the seat of disorders.