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Lillian B. Boettcher and Sarah T. Menacho

The pathophysiology of mental illness and its relationship to the frontal lobe were subjects of immense interest in the latter half of the 19th century. Numerous studies emerged during this time on cortical localization and frontal lobe theory, drawing upon various ideas from neurology and psychiatry. Reflecting the intense interest in this region of the brain, the 1935 International Neurological Congress in London hosted a special session on the frontal lobe. Among other presentations, Yale physiologists John Fulton and Carlyle Jacobsen presented a study on frontal lobectomy in primates, and neurologist Richard Brickner presented a case of frontal ablation for olfactory meningioma performed by the Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon Walter Dandy. Both occurrences are said to have influenced Portuguese neurologist Egas Moniz (1874–1955) to commence performing leucotomies on patients beginning in late 1935. Here the authors review the relevant events related to frontal lobe theory leading up to the 1935 Neurological Congress as well as the extent of this meeting’s role in the genesis of the modern era of psychosurgery.