In writing the book Examined Lives about my mother’s lobotomy I include pictures taken by Walter Freeman before, during and after the procedure. I do not, however, show a picture of the ice pick-like device he used. Here it is. It is much larger than an actual ice pick and thus able to penetrate deeper into the brain.
It seems incredible today that such a device could have been used, but the brain has always been and still is a mysterious frontier. Despite the great gains made by the use of antidepressants, they do not always work. And there are other conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s, that have proved ultimately intractable to chemical intervention. So we are in the age beyond the “Ice Pick” but still in territory with which Freeman would be familiar. Electroshock therapy is in use. (As a matter of fact so are lobotomies in rare instances.) And deep electrical stimulation of the brain is being tried to treat depression, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s as well as electromagnetic stimulation. So far I have seen no discussion in news sources of possible dangers of such treatments, just as was the case in the early days of lobotomies, and what is even more shocking [no pun intended] to me at least is the fact that the average consumer can buy machines that provide electrical and electromagnetic stimulation. Freeman would approve—inexpensive and widely available, which was Freeman’s goal with lobotomies.