One was a middle-aged man who refused to get into the shower. The other was a teenager who was afraid to get out.
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Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times
Karen Quintal, with a Leksell frame screwed into her skull before surgery for a tumor.
Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times
Before Ross, 21, had brain surgery two years ago, his
obsessive-compulsive disorder kept him from leaving the house. “It
saved my life,” he said.
man, Leonard, a writer living outside Chicago, found himself completely
unable to wash himself or brush his teeth. The teenager, Ross, growing
up in a suburb of New York, had become so terrified of germs that he
would regularly shower for seven hours. Each received a diagnosis of
severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, or O.C.D., and for years neither felt comfortable enough to leave the house.
leave they eventually did, traveling in desperation to a hospital in
Rhode Island for an experimental brain operation in which four
raisin-sized holes were burned deep in their brains.
Today, two years after surgery, Ross is 21 and in college. “It saved my life,” he said. “I really believe that.”
same cannot be said for Leonard, 67, who had surgery in 1995. “There
was no change at all,” he said. “I still don’t leave the house.”
Both men asked that their last names not be used to protect their privacy.
great promise of neuroscience at the end of the last century was that
it would revolutionize the treatment of psychiatric problems. But the
first real application of advanced brain science is not novel at all.
It is a precise, sophisticated version of an old and controversial
approach: psychosurgery, in which doctors operate directly on the