New JHN: Transnational Psychosurgery, Phantom Limbs, & More

A new issue of Journal of the History of the Neuroscience is now online. Included in this issue are articles on psychosurgery as a transnational movement, artists and phantom limbs, and sex and gender in organology. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“A Transnational Perspective on Psychosurgery: Beyond Portugal and the United States,” by Brianne M. Collinsa & Henderikus J. Stam. The abstract reads,

The history of psychosurgery is most often recounted as a narrative wherein Portuguese and American physicians play the leading role. It is a traditional narrative in which the United States and, at times, Portugal are central in the development and spread of psychosurgery. Here we largely abandon the archetypal narrative and provide one of the first transnational accounts of psychosurgery to demonstrate the existence of a global psychosurgical community in which more than 40 countries participated, bolstered, critiqued, modified and heralded the treatment. From its inception in 1935 until its decline in the mid-1960s, psychosurgery was performed on almost all continents. Rather than being a phenomenon isolated to the United States and Portugal, it became a truly transnational movement.

“Phantoms in Artists: The Lost Limbs of Blaise Cendrars, Arthur Rimbaud, and Paul Wittgenstein,” by Laurent Tatu, Julien Bogousslavsky & François Boller. The abstract reads,

There have been an increasing number of reports of postamputation pain and problems linked to phantom limbs over recent years, particularly in relation to war-related amputations. These problems, which are often poorly understood and considered rather mysterious, are still relevant because they are difficult to treat medically. Functional neuroimaging techniques now enable us to better understand their pathophysiology and to consider new rehabilitation techniques. Phantom limbs have often been a source of inspiration to writers, particularly in the period following the First World War, which was responsible for thousands of amputees. Some artists have suffered from postamputation complications themselves and have expressed them through their artistic works. Blaise Cendrars (1887–1961), one of the greatest authors of the twentieth century, suffered from stump pain and phantom limb phenomena for almost half a century following the amputation of his right arm during the First World War. He suffered from these phenomena until the end of his life and his literary work and personal correspondence are peppered with references to them. Arthur Rimbaud (1854–1891), one of the most famous poets in world literature, developed severe stump pain after his right leg was amputated due to a tumor. He survived for only six months after the procedure but left behind an account of the pain he experienced in correspondence to his family. The famous pianist Paul Wittgenstein (1887–1961), whose right arm was amputated during the First World War, became a famous left-handed concert pianist. The phantom movements of his right hand helped him to develop the dexterity of his left hand. The impact on the artistic life of these three men provides an original illustration of the various postamputation complications, specifically phantom limbs, stump pain, and moving phantom.

“Ji?í Procháska (1749–1820): Part 1: A Significant Czech Anatomist, Physiologist and Neuroscientist of the Eighteenth Century,” by Alexandr Chvátal. The abstract reads,

Ji?í (George) Procháska (1749–1820), a Czech anatomist, physiologist, and neuroscientist of the eighteenth century, ranks among the major figures of Czech and European cultural history. The works of Ji?í Procháska, due to historical circumstances, were published mostly in Latin and only some in German. However, given that only one treatise was partially translated into English, the results of his extensive research activities are currently unavailable to the international scientific community. The achievements of Ji?í Procháska undoubtedly belong to the major intellectual heritage of European science and certainly deserve attention as such, although his research reflected the time in which he lived and therefore has been reevaluated by later researchers. Undoubtedly, it is our duty not only to remember the work and legacy of Ji?í Procháska, which significantly influenced the development of our knowledge, but also to try to critically assess his contribution in terms of today. This article surveys the important biographical events of Ji?í Procháska’s life, taking into account the significance of his research.

“Matters of Sex and Gender in F. J. Gall’s Organology: A Primary Approach,” by Tabea Cornel. The abstract reads,

The originator of phrenology, F. J. Gall (1758–1828), saw himself as a natural scientist and physiologist. His approach consisted of brain anatomy but also of palpating skulls and inferring mental faculties. Unlike some of the philosophical principles underlying Gall’s work, his conception of sex/gender has not yet been examined in detail. In this article, I will focus on Gall’s treatment of men and women, his idea of sex differences, and how far an assumed existence of dichotomous sexes influenced his work. In examining his primary writings, I will argue that Gall held some contradictory views concerning the origin and manifestation of sex/gender characteristics, which were caused by the collision of his naturalistic ideas and internalized gender stereotypes. I will conclude that Gall did not aim at deducing or legitimizing sex/gender relations scientifically, but that he tried to express metaphysical reasons for a given social order in terms of functional brain mechanisms.

“Differentiation between Seizure and Hysteria in a Tenth-Century Persian Text: Hid?yat of al-Akhawayni (d. 983 AD),” by Hassan Yarmohammadi, Behnam Dalfardi, Ahmad Ghanizadeh, & Milad Hosseinialhashemi. The abstract reads,

Although hysteria is associated largely with the nineteenth century, we find the subject treated in a tenth-century Persian medical text, the Hidayat al-Muta`allemin Fi al-Tibb [A Guide to Medical Learners] by al-Akhawayni Bukhari (d. 983 AD), a prominent physician in the Persian history of medicine. In this article, we discuss al-Akhawayni’s views on seizure and hysteria and his differentiation between the two conditions, and we place it in a historical context.

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About Jacy Young

Jacy Young recently completed a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Surrey in the UK. She earned her doctorate in the History and Theory of Psychology at York University in 2014.

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