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Deep in the archives of London's Wellcome Collection, that great treasure trove of medical curiosities, is a small white cardboard box.Inside is a pair of medical devices. They are simple. Each consists of an eight-centimetre steel spike, attached to a wooden handle."These two gruesome things are lobotomy instruments. Nothing sophisticated," says senior archivist Lesley Hall. "It's not rocket science is it?"These spikes once represented the leading edge of psychiatric science. They were the operative tools in lobotomy, also known as leucotomy, an operation which was seen as a miracle cure for a range of mental illnesses.
In 1935, in a Lisbon hospital, he believed he had found a solution. "I decided to sever the connecting fibres of the neurons in activity," he wrote in a monograph titled "How I came to perform frontal leucotomy".His original technique was adapted by others, but the basic idea remained the same.Surgeons would drill a pair of holes into the skull, either at the side or top, and push a sharp instrument - a leucotome - into the brain.The surgeon would sweep this from side to side, to cut the connections between the frontal lobes and the rest of the brain.