Advances in functional neurosurgery, including neuromodulation and more recently ultrasonic ablation of basal ganglia structures, have improved the quality of life for patients with debilitating movement disorders. What is little known, however, is that both of these neurosurgical advances, which remain on the cutting edge, have their origin in the pioneering work of Russell Meyers, whose contributions are documented in this paper. Meyers' published work and professional correspondence are reviewed, in addition to documents held by the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Iowa. Meyers was born in Brooklyn, New York, and received his neurosurgical training at hospitals in New York City under Jefferson Browder. In 1939, a chance encounter with a young woman with damaged bilateral ventral striata convinced Meyers that the caudate could be resected to treat Parkinsonism without disrupting consciousness. Shortly thereafter, he performed the first caudate resection for postencephalitic Parkinsonism. In 1946, Meyers became the first chairman of neurosurgery at the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa), which led to the recruitment of 8 faculty members and the training of 18 residents during his tenure (1946–1963). Through collaboration with the Fry brothers at the University of Illinois, Meyers performed the first stereotactic ultrasonic ablations of deep brain structures to treat tremor, choreoathetosis, dystonia, intractable pain, and hypothalamic hamartoma. Meyers left academic neurosurgery in 1963 for reasons that are unclear, but he continued clinical neurosurgery work for several more years. Despite his early departure from academic medicine, Meyers' contributions to functional neurosurgery provided a lasting legacy that has improved the lives of many patients with movement disorders.
Taylor J. Abel, Timothy Walch and Matthew A. Howard III
Francis J. Jareczek, Marshall T. Holland, Matthew A. Howard III, Timothy Walch and Taylor J. Abel
Neurosurgery for the treatment of psychological disorders has a checkered history in the United States. Prior to the advent of antipsychotic medications, individuals with severe mental illness were institutionalized and subjected to extreme therapies in an attempt to palliate their symptoms. Psychiatrist Walter Freeman first introduced psychosurgery, in the form of frontal lobotomy, as an intervention that could offer some hope to those patients in whom all other treatments had failed. Since that time, however, the use of psychosurgery in the United States has waxed and waned significantly, though literature describing its use is relatively sparse. In an effort to contribute to a better understanding of the evolution of psychosurgery, the authors describe the history of psychosurgery in the state of Iowa and particularly at the University of Iowa Department of Neurosurgery. An interesting aspect of psychosurgery at the University of Iowa is that these procedures have been nearly continuously active since Freeman introduced the lobotomy in the 1930s. Frontal lobotomies and transorbital leukotomies were performed by physicians in the state mental health institutions as well as by neurosurgeons at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (formerly known as the State University of Iowa Hospital). Though the early technique of frontal lobotomy quickly fell out of favor, the use of neurosurgery to treat select cases of intractable mental illness persisted as a collaborative treatment effort between psychiatrists and neurosurgeons at Iowa. Frontal lobotomies gave way to more targeted lesions such as anterior cingulotomies and to neuromodulation through deep brain stimulation. As knowledge of brain circuits and the pathophysiology underlying mental illness continues to grow, surgical intervention for psychiatric pathologies is likely to persist as a viable treatment option for select patients at the University of Iowa and in the larger medical community.