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Psychosurgery and the limbic system
  1. Desmond Kelly


    The limbic system can be considered to consist of a central ‘core’ from which three well-defined circuits emerge. These are the Papez or medial circuit, the basolateral circuit and the defence reaction circuit. The functions of the primitive limbic brain are modulated by a higher order control—the frontal lobe. Emotional responses and physiological changes have been obtained by stimulation of fronto-limbic pathways and limbic circuits and these have been used for location of target sites in psychosurgery. For the relief of intractable depression and anxiety, lesions are generally made in the lower medial quadrant or posteroorbital part of the frontal lobe, where there is a concentration of fronto-limbic connections. In primary obsessional neurosis lesions at this site produce less satisfactory results, but these illnesses may be helped by lesions in the cingulate gyrus, which is part of the Papez circuit. Patients with epilepsy and aggressive outbursts may respond to temporal lobotomy, or to operations, such as amygdalotomy, where lesions are placed in the defence reaction circuit.

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