There is a famous painting in which someone is being operated on to remove the Stone of Folly https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stone_of_madness. I wonder how plausible it is that someone who exhibited cognitive difficulties due to pressure from a tumor, perhaps one so large that it deformed the skull (not sure if that can happen) and this suggested that cutting into the head might be indicated and perhaps sometimes, assuming the patient did not die, some improvement was indeed observed because the pressure was relieved.

  • $\begingroup$ Trepanning wasn't used just for brain tumours, but also for when they thought a man or woman was possessed. Nowadays we would say they had mental health issue's such as bipolar, depression, schizophrenia or psychosis and the like. $\endgroup$ – Mozibur Ullah Feb 3 at 17:50

Trephination has an ancient history. In the right hands, it may have been a useful tool to deal with depressed skull fractures and subdural hematomas. Many of the patients did survive, rather amazingly when one considers it is at least nominally brain surgery done in 6500 B.C. (Also note that many ancient cultures, armed with opium, nightshade, cannabis, and more dubious agents, were more skilled with anaesthesia than witch-fearing Medieval Europe)

A subdural hematoma is a somewhat solid object (which is to say, clotted blood) not otherwise found in the body, which can cause strange symptoms (Richard Feynman told a great story). You can see from this set of images of a modern trephination that the operation essentially consists of the removal of a solid, unwanted body (panel E) that could cause behavioral symptoms. One can argue this way it ought to have been counted as a "stone of madness", but proving that point historically is another matter.

  • $\begingroup$ i found feynman's story, really does not go into the idea that "stones" were solid tumors or something else that resembled stones. $\endgroup$ – releseabe Feb 3 at 22:38
  • $\begingroup$ I've linked to an image of one of these operations - the hematoma is obviously squishier than your average stone, but it presents the appearance of a strange, unwanted, more or less solid body, more so I think than a tumor would. And hematomas really can be removed successfully be trephination, even with ancient technology. $\endgroup$ – Mike Serfas Feb 4 at 6:25
  • $\begingroup$ i may summon up the courage to look at it at some point. $\endgroup$ – releseabe Feb 4 at 8:53

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