Brain surgery, in any form, to treat people with psychiatric illness was virtually abandoned after public outcry over the abuse of lobotomies half a century ago. But recent progress in neuroscience is igniting renewed interest in this field. Tried and tested in the treatment of movement disorders such as Parkinsonï¿½s Disease, neurosurgeons are hopeful that certain brain surgery techniques may also help to relieve the crippling symptoms of psychiatric illnesses like obsessive compulsive disorder. One technique, known as deep brain stimulation, uses an electric current, from electrodes implanted in the brain, to alter the brainï¿½s function. Itï¿½s still experimental and only about 20 patients world wide have undergone the operation. But because the stimulator can be switched on and off and the electrodes removed, the effects are completely reversible. Graham Easton explores the science and the ethics of operating on the brain to cure the mind.
The program was broadcasted on BBC Radio 4 Tuesday 1 April 2003 9.00-9.30pm.