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Brain Surgery History – From Rocks to Lasers

Brain Surgery History – From Rocks to Lasers

Brain Surgery History - From Rocks to Lasers

The skulls below show evidence of antique surgery. Brain surgery history traces back to the Neolithic age. In fact, no other form of practiced medical art dates back so far back to such a pre-historic period. Archeological evidence of brain surgeries and associated medical tools have been discovered all over the world.

These discoveries, which support evidence dating back to circa 7000 BC suggest considerable success rates of early brain surgery procedures.

Early Brain Surgery History

brain_surgery_historyAmong the earliest known procedures, is Trepanning. This involves boring holes, sometimes using stone tools, through the skull. Early practitioners adopted this procedure to correct madness, insanity, and other mental imbalances.

It was thought that by setting free the ‘demons’ and ‘evil spirits’ occupying the brain. Brain surgeries were also used to treat epilepsy, headaches, osteomyelitis, and head injuries, not to mention brain surgeries ‘spiritual’ and ‘magical’ purposes.

The basic approach in most ancient brain surgery procedures is to remove the portion of the brain that, in the opinion of the practitioner, has been damaged and is failing. This was not entirely illogical in medical terms, as even now, defective or diseased organs are quickly removed from the body to prevent the spread of disease and discomfort. Based on this approach, early surgeons removed the frontal lobes of many mental facility patients, as they considered the lobes to control the mental behavior of individuals.

In brain surgery history, modern scientific knowledge about the brain and its surgical procedures originated to some extent in the works of Hippocrates. Considered the father of modern medical ethics, Hippocrates’ work displayed his excellent knowledge about clinical signs of head injuries, seizures, spasms, contusions, depression, and head fractures. Even today, after more than 2000 years of his death, the findings of Hippocrates still form the basis of knowledge about brain studies and surgical interventions.


The first consistently practiced brain surgery procedure began on or around 1935 with a procedure called a leucotomy or a lobotomy. It involves cutting the fiber tracts between the thalamus and the frontal lobes by using a special knife. The purpose of this intervention was to provide relief from symptoms like severe depression, psychosis, and violent behavior when other forms of treatment had failed. However, this procedure was much abused and many patients were maimed for life.

Brain Surgery Today

Brain surgery has developed throughout the 20th century to a point where brain surgery is routinely performed with great success. It has continued to develop hand-in-hand with the development of our understanding of the brain, right to this day.

Brain surgeons nowadays use lasers to pinpoint minute locations in sensitive areas of the brain and make precise incisions. Also, surgeons make use of robotic tools to automate procedures but more importantly take advantage of the precision of a computer-guided device. Brain surgery has come a long way since the Neolithic age!

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