Advances in psychosurgery still boggle the mind

BOOKS & AUTHORS

June 28, 1992|By James H. Bready

Psychosurgery is still a bad word, long after the headline disaster of its ice-pick lobotomies. Recent U.S. emphasis has been on psychiatry and pharmaceuticals, with their respective limitations and side-effects. Many, many disorders of the mind go untouched.

But, particularly in Britain, psychosurgery continues, even advances. The name now is often NRI (neurosurgical and related interventions), and the method is to zero in on some specific, tiny area of the brain, where errant neurons can be silenced by such techniques as implanting radioactive seeds.

Joan Ellison Rodgers of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions provides a gripping, up-to-the-moment look at this medical frontier in "Psychosurgery: Damaging the Brain to Save the Mind" (HarperCollins, $20). In sum, dangers remain, but the age of mutilated zombies (1936-1960) is past.

Persons with obsessive-compulsive disease, suicidal depression, epilepsy and uncontrollable rage and aggression have been greatly helped by today's new means for diagnosis and operating-table treatment.

Mrs. Rodgers formerly wrote for the News American; she is the author of four previous books, has been president of the National Association of Science Writers and, at Hopkins medical, is currently director of media relations. She is careful to include those authorities who still inveigh against psychosurgery and its continuing possibilities for abuse. But, she avers, "We cannot deny relief to patients simply because we are afraid."

Among people functioning normally, the strongest force irelatedness. Countering colleagues whose endless preoccupation is with the self, Ruthellen Josselson is a psychology professor (Towson State University this year, Harvard next) and psychotherapist whose focus is on the ways in which adults relate to one another, and on the settings in which relationships flourish.

Her stimulating new book, "The Space Between Us: Exploring the Dimensions of Human Relationships" (Jossey-Bass, $24.95), follows this lifelong need through its many windings and variations -- men this way, women that -- up to and including love.

It's five years since any old Baltimore city directories turned up ilocal book auction. So, the other day in Rockville, a single lot of 23 pre-1900 directories brought $6,600. And 30 more Baltimore directories, from as far back as 1849, go on the block separately tomorrow, at a Baltimore Book Co. auction at Towson Quality Inn, starting at 6:30 p.m.

Also featured is an Abraham Lincoln autograph, valued at $1,250 to $1,750 and, in 70 lots, a Michigan collector's library on Lincoln.

Military aviation matters: Rick Mitchell of Linthicum, son of World War II fighter pilot and peacetime group commander in the Maryland Air National Guard, is the author of "Airacobra Advantage, The Flying Cannon: The Complete Story of Bell Aircraft Corporation's P-39 Pursuit Fighter Plane" (Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., Missoula, Mont.; softback, $11.95). Amply illustrated and strong on technical detail, "Airacobra" celebrates one of WWII's five basic U.S. fighter planes. Propeller-driven, the P-39 was famous for its firepower. Mr. Mitchell, an insurance official, was the author of 1989's "History of the Maryland Air National Guard."

Robert E. Venkus of Ellicott City, writing a book on the April 1986 bombing raid on Libya, was still forbidden to name the Air Force crews participating -- two men to each of 18 F-111Fs. Otherwise, Col. Venkus, retired since 1987, was able to pack eyewitness detail into his "Raid on Qaddafi: The Untold Story of History's Longest Fighter Mission, by the Pilot Who Directed It" (St. Martin's Press, $21.95). Experience gained in Operation El Dorado Canyon, as it was called, aided the Air Force in subsequent battle.

John Maclay's newest collection of short stories, mostlrepublished from horror and supernatural magazines, is "Mindwarps" (Maclay Publishing, 4504 Roland Ave., 21210), $9.95.

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