The October issue of the Journal of the History of Neurosciences (JHN) has just been released online. The issue features four original articles, as well as a piece of neuroscience history trivia. Among the topics covered in this issue of JHN are the public dissemination of knowledge of the electric eel and the relation of such knowledge to understanding of “nerve action”, the interactions – or lack thereof – of contemporary Frenchmen Louis Pasteur and Jean-Martin Charcot, and debates over localization of cerebral function in early electrical stimulation studies. Titles, authors, and abstracts from this issue of the JHN are given below.
“The Role of The Gentleman’s Magazine in the Dissemination of Knowledge About Electric Fish in the Eighteenth Century” by Stanley Finger and Ian Ferguson, both of the Department of Psychology, at Washington University in St. Louis Missouri. The abstract reads:
Although torpedoes and Malopterurus, a Nile catfish, had been described and even used medically in antiquity, their discharges were poorly understood before the second half of the eighteenth century. It was then that their actions, along with those of certain South American “eels,” became firmly associated with electricity. The realization that an animal could produce electricity marked a turning point in the history of neurophysiology, which had long described nerve actions with recourse to animal spirits. By examining The Gentleman’s Magazine during the period when electric fish were becoming electrical, one can begin to appreciate how new discoveries about these unusual creatures captured the imagination of scientists and were filtered down to the literate public.
“Diffusion of Electrical Current in the Experiments of Fritsch and Hitzig and Ferrier Failed to Negate Their Conclusion of the Existence of Cerebral Motor Centers” by J. Wayne Lazar, of the Department of Psychiatry, at the Center for Neuropsychological Services in Manhasset, New York. The abstract reads:
This paper explores the implications of an early criticism of the stimulation studies of Fritsch and Hitzig and Ferrier for localized brain functions. Fritsch and Hitzig and Ferrier concluded that motor centers reside in the cortices of the hemispheres. Their studies were replicated, but their conclusions were not generally accepted initially. The most salient, laboratory-based criticism was that the electrical current used for stimulation diffused well beyond the cortex making their conclusion of cerebral motor centers unacceptable. The diffusion argument was essentially a French suggestion. Ferrier’s and American research and interpretations provided data and arguments against it.
“Charcot and Pasteur: Intersecting Orbits in Fin de Siècle French Medicine” by Christopher G. Goetz of Rush University Medical Center, in Chicago, Illinois and Donald H. Harter of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences at George Washington University Medical Center, in Washington, DC. The abstract reads:
Charcot and Pasteur were scientific contemporaries, but their relationship has not been extensively studied. We analyzed available source documents from the Charcot Library, Bibliothque Nationale, Institute Pasteur, and Pasteur Library. These documents demonstrate that in spite of geographical proximity, international and local recognition, Charcot and Pasteur largely pursued their careers independent of one another. Although the Paris scientific climate was one of active debate, Pasteur’s and Charcot’s interactions remained distanced but mutually respectful and did not descend into rivalry or contention. With different primary interests and different etiological views, side by side, they exemplified two models of French medicine at the close of the nineteenth century: medical scientist and scientific physician.
“Babinski’s Anosognosia for Hemiplegia in Early Twentieth-Century French Neurology” by Karen G. Langer of New York University’s Langone Medical Center, Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, in New York City. The abstract reads:
In 1914, Babinski first described “anosognosia”; a term he coined for a phenomenon involving unawareness of disability in hemiplegia. Historical roots of contemporary perspectives on anosognosia after stroke may be found in early discussions among French neurologists. Current notions and debate regarding the roles played by cognition, emotional factors, sensory loss and somatosensory neglect in anosognosia, and the distinctness of anosognosia as a symptom echo the theoretical dilemmas of an earlier past. Historical overview of the development of perspectives on anosognosia enriches our understanding of unawareness of disability.
Also included in this issue of JHN are two pieces entitled, “Neurognostics Question” and “Neurognostics Answer” by Samuel H. Greenblatt, of the Departments of Neurosurgery and Neuroscience, at Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island. The first piece features trivia on an influential figure in the history of neuroscience, while the second reveals the identity of this individual.