Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine

Living Edition
| Editors: Marc Gellman


  • Douglas CarrollEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6439-6_487-2



Psychosurgery is brain surgery conducted explicitly to amend aspects of human behavior. As such, it can be distinguished from neurosurgery, where the aim is to address some specific and identifiable brain pathology such as a tumor. Although there are noticeable gray areas such as brain surgery for intractable pain or to halt the spread of epileptic seizures from one brain hemisphere to the other, the above distinction is important in differentiating between the primarily behavioral aims of psychosurgery and the primary aims of treating physical pathology that characterize neurosurgery.


The first psychosurgical operation was undertaken on November 12, 1935 by Egas Moniz at the Neurological Institute of the University of Lisbon, Portugal. Moniz’s surgery was conducted on severely disturbed psychiatric patients who had proved resistant to other forms of treatment. He called his operation the prefrontal leucotomy; a wire garrote inserted...

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References and Further Reading

  1. Valenstein, E. S. (1973). Brain control: A critical examination of brain stimulation and psychosurgery. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Sport and Exercise SciencesUniversity of BirminghamEdgbaston, BirminghamUK

Section editors and affiliations

  • Anna C. Whittaker
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation SciencesUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK