Just recently, the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine will be awarded to Swedish biologist Svante Pääbo for his discoveries on "the extinct human genome and human evolution," according to Reuters.
This achievement sounds very lofty, but in fact it is the answer to the age-old philosophical question, where did mankind come from?
Using genetic sequences to trace the ancestry of humans, Svante Pabbo's team found that humans in different parts of the world share the genes of a small group of ancient Africans, laying the foundation for the theory of the African origin of humans. Simply put, this Nobel Prize in Medicine is awarded for his discovery of the use of genetic sequences that have provided a wealth of possibilities and new ideas for exploring human evolution.
The Nobel Prize has long been considered the highest authority for evaluating scientists, scientific achievements, and literary works, and winning the Nobel Prize is a lifelong pursuit for many researchers. However, not all Nobel Prize winners are worthy of the name, in the 1950s, the Nobel Prize has also had a "lapse in judgment" time.
Mental illnesses that are difficult to cure
Since the 19th century, technological developments and human cognition have been disruptive in all fields, but unfortunately this does not include medicine, especially in the field of neurology.
In those days, in order to relieve the symptoms of some psychiatric patients, doctors used to use large doses of narcotics, sedatives and even opiates to temporarily calm the patients, and more extreme doctors would inject insulin into the patients, because the injection of large amounts of insulin can make people fall into a coma because of the lowering of blood sugar.
Some patients with severe psychiatric symptoms and aggressive behavior are even worse, they will be forced into mental institutions, where they will wear hoods to be securely locked, or even use special appliances to jam them directly into small boxes.
In 1935, two doctors at the Second Neuropsychiatric Society in London mentioned an operation they had performed in the past: after they tried to perform an anterior lobotomy on a chimpanzee, the originally grumpy chimpanzee became very docile, and all vital indicators remained normal.
This experiment piqued the interest of Portuguese physician Antonio Moniz, who boldly predicted that the procedure could be used to treat people suffering from mental illness, and he set out on his own quest.
The invention of "lobotomy"
Moniz began his experiment right after the congress. This experiment was performed as follows: first, a tool was used to drill a hole in the patient's skull, and then a lobar white matter cutter was inserted through the hole into the patient's brain. By rotating the guide wire at the front of the cutter, the connection between the patient's brain prefrontal lobe and other brain regions could be removed.
Moniz performed this surgery on a female patient with psychosis, and the results were the same as those of the two doctors; the patient, who had been suffering from mania, became very quiet at the end of the surgery.
Inspired by his excitement, Moniz believed he had overcome a neurological problem that had plagued the medical community for years, and he continued to try to improve the procedure, designing a special tool, the "lobar white matter cutter".
Moniz believes that the main principle lies in cutting the neural connections in certain areas of the brain in order to successfully cure psychiatric patients. With the success of the first experiment, Moniz performed 20 more operations in a row, and the anterior lobotomy was recognized by more and more doctors, after all, with a small operation, those emotionally unstable patients would become very well-behaved.
Despite this recognition, not many doctors have reverted to "lobotomy" because, after all, it involves drilling holes in the skull, which requires a high level of skill and hospital equipment.
It was not until 1945 that Freeman, an American doctor, improved the "anterior lobotomy".
Horrible ice pick therapy
Freeman named his modified procedure "ice pick therapy," which requires no skull drilling, is more convenient than "anterior lobotomy," and requires fewer doctors and hospitals.
However, the procedure can be extremely frightening: first the patient is simply and roughly electrocuted, then a thick and long iron needle is nailed into the brain through the patient's eyeball with a hammer, and then the needle is stirred to destroy the anterior lobe area of the patient's brain.
In order to publicize his innovation, Freeman turned into an advertiser and toured around to showcase this invention of his. Such a horrible surgery turned into a very easy therapy in his publicity: he told the patient's family that all they needed to do was to hand the patient over to himself and go for a cup of coffee time, and he would give them back a normal family member .......
In 1949, Moniz was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine for his "anterior lobotomy".
Side effects of "anterior lobectomy"
As "anterior lobotomy" and "ice pick therapy" became popular, the procedure's Achilles' heel began to emerge.
Since doctors at that time did not have a scientific understanding of the brain, there was no standard procedure for this operation. The so-called destruction of the white matter of the anterior lobe was just a sensory poking around in the patient's brain. It is true that some patients became quiet and docile after the treatment and seemed to be in remission, however, as the number of patients increased, a large number of sequelae began to appear.
In the end, only 40% of the patients showed improvement after the "ice pick therapy": some patients not only did not improve after the surgery, but became more extreme; some patients became like walking corpses, dull and numb, unable to take care of themselves; some patients died directly during the surgery. One of the most famous examples is President Kennedy's own sister, Mary Kennedy, who tried "ice pick therapy" due to mental deficiencies of intellectual disabilities, but instead became demented and clumsy, her intelligence dropped to the level of newborns, completely lost the ability to move, and spent her life in a wheelchair.
What's even scarier is that "ice pick therapy" began to be abused: some doctors used "ice pick therapy" as a panacea in order to save money, but all their patients were forced to perform the procedure; and some people who were compelled by Freeman, such as some parents who were troubled by rebellious children, would even send their normal children to undergo the procedure.
According to statistics, between 1939 and 1951 in the United States alone, more than 18,000 people received "ice pick therapy", and countless victims around the world, thousands of people because of this procedure ruined their lives.
The end of the Nobel Prize myth
With the increasing number of reported failures and the invention of many psychiatric drugs such as clozapine and risperidone, the medical community finally realized that destroying the connection between the anterior lobes and the rest of the brain through external force would not only not provide relief, but would cause unknown and irreversible damage to the patient.
In 1950, at the strong suggestion of psychopathologist Vasily Gayanovsky, the Soviet government was the first to declare a total ban on anterior lobotomy of the white matter of the brain. In the decades that followed, the vast majority of countries, including the United States, also legislated against the procedure, and this appalling operation disappeared into history.
Looking back at history at this moment, it is hard to believe that such an unorthodox procedure could be touted for more than a decade, ruining the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, and yet the inventor won the Nobel Prize for it. Since then, the Nobel Prize Committee regulations, all awards will have a 20-year inspection period, is to prevent the re-emergence of similar situations.
However, no matter what, the peaceful life that those hundreds of thousands of people should have had can't come back.
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