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Ryan Holland, David Kopel, Peter W. Carmel and Charles J. Prestigiacomo

Surgery of the mind has a rather checkered past. Though its history begins with the prehistoric trephination of skulls to allow “evil spirits” to escape, the early- to mid-20th century saw a surge in the popularity of psychosurgery. The 2 prevailing operations were topectomy and leukotomy for the treatment of certain mental illnesses. Although they were modified and refined by several of their main practitioners, the effectiveness of and the ethics involved with these operations remained controversial.

In 1947, Dr. J. Lawrence Pool and the Columbia-Greystone Associates sought to rigorously investigate the outcomes of specific psychosurgical procedures. Pool along with R. G. Heath and John Weber believed that nonexcessive bifrontal cortical ablation could successfully treat certain mental illnesses without the undesired consequences of irreversible personality changes. They conducted this investigation at the psychiatric hospital at Greystone Park near Morristown, New Jersey.

Despite several encouraging findings of the Columbia-Greystone project, psychosurgery practices began to decline significantly in the 1950s. The uncertainty of results and ethical debates related to side effects made these procedures unpopular. Further, groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the American Civil Liberties Union condemned the use of psychosurgery, believing it to be an inhumane form of treatment. Today, there are strict guidelines that must be adhered to when evaluating a patient for psychosurgery procedures. It is imperative for the neurosurgery community to remember the history of psychosurgery to provide the best possible current treatment and to search for better future treatments for a particularly vulnerable patient population.

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Ryan Holland, Victor M. Sabourin, Chirag D. Gandhi, Peter W. Carmel and Charles J. Prestigiacomo

As his fellow soldiers ran past him, Joseph Warren stood bravely on Bunker Hill. It was June 17, 1775, and British troops were fighting the colonists in one of the early battles of the American Revolution. The British had already attempted two major assaults that day, and the third would end with Warren’s death. He was a medical doctor, public figure, and general who spent his life and last living moments fighting for freedom for the American colonists.

After the battle, there was much confusion about what had happened to Joseph Warren. Some thought he had survived the battle; other accounts differed on how exactly he had died. The details of the events on Bunker Hill remained a mystery until the following year, when Paul Revere helped identify Warren’s body by the false teeth that had been implanted years earlier. Warren’s remains showed that his head had been struck by a bullet.

Analysis of the skull helped to sift through the differing tales of Warren’s death and thus unveil the truth about what occurred that day. The smaller bullet wound in the left maxilla suggests that he was not shot while retreating with the rest of the soldiers. The larger exit wound in the right occiput illustrates that the bullet’s trajectory crossed the midline of the brain and most likely injured the brainstem. Therefore, contrary to rumors that circulated at the time, Joseph Warren most likely was killed instantly at the Battle of Bunker Hill while heroically facing his enemy.

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Victor M. Sabourin, Ryan Holland, Christine Mau, Chirag D. Gandhi and Charles J. Prestigiacomo

The Civil War era was an age-defining period in the history of the United States of America, the effects of which are still seen in the nation today. In this era, the issue of head injury pervaded society. From the president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, to the officers and soldiers of the Union and Confederate armies, and to the population at large, head injury and its ramifications gripped the nation. This article focuses on 3 individuals: Major General John Sedgwick, First Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing, and Harriet Tubman, as examples of the impact that head injury had during this era. These 3 individuals were chosen for this article because of their lasting legacies, contributions to society, and interesting connections to one another.