New Issue: JHN

A new issue of the Journal of the History of the Neurosciences has just been released online. The issue includes articles on the late-nineteenth century reception of neuron theory, cases of phantom penis in the late-eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, among other topics. Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

The Journal of the History of the Neurosciences is the official journal of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN), which will hold a joint meeting with Cheiron, the International Society for the History of the Behavioral and Social Sciences, in Calgary, Alberta, in June 2011. More details about this joint meeting and the after conference workshop in Banff, Alberta can be found here.

“Phantom Penis: Historical Dimensions,” by Nicholas J. Wade and Stanley Finger. The abstract reads:

Interest in sensations from removed body parts other than limbs has increased with modern surgical techniques. This applies particularly to operations (e.g., gender-changing surgeries) that have resulted in phantom genitalia. The impression given in modern accounts, especially those dealing with phantoms associated with penis amputation, is that this is a recently discovered phenomenon. Yet the historical record reveals several cases of phantom penises dating from the late-eighteenth century and the early-nineteenth century. These cases, recorded by some of the leading medical and surgical figures of the era, are of considerable historical and theoretical significance. This is partly because these phantoms were associated with pleasurable sensations, in contrast to the loss of a limb, which for centuries had been associated with painful phantoms. We here present several early reports on phantom penile sensations, with the intent of showing what had been described and why more than 200 years ago.

“The Moscow Colloquium on Electroencephalography of Higher Nervous Activity and Its Impact on International Brain Research,” by Boleslav L. Lichterman. The abstract reads:

Late 1950s was a period of recognition of Russian neurophysiology by international neuroscience community and vice versa. This process of “opening windows in both directions” might be illustrated by the story of The Moscow Colloquium on Electroencephalography of Higher Nervous Activity.

The Colloquium took place on October 6-11, 1958 at the House of Scientists in Moscow. It was organized by the Academy of Sciences of the USSR under the initiative of the Institute for Higher Nervous Activity and focused on (a) EEG correlates of cortical excitation and inhibition; (b) electrophysiological study of different brain structures and their role in conditioned reflexes; and (c) EEG of higher nervous activity in humans.

At the final session it was suggested to launch an International Year for the Study of the Brain and to ask UNESCO for international coordination of brain research. This resulted into the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO) founded in 1960.

This article is based on unpublished records of international contacts of Soviet neurophysiologists and organization of the Moscow Colloquium from the Archive of Russian Academy of Science (ARAN), reports in Soviet periodicals, publications in obscure Festschriften, etc.

“A History of von Recklinghausen’s NF1,” by Stephanie Brosius. The abstract reads:

While the study of genetic diseases is a rather recent development in science, von Recklinghausen’s neurofibromatosis (NF1) has a rich pictorial history, seemingly dating back to the thirteenth century. In 1768, Akenside published a scientifically-based description of NF1, recognizing that the monsters of scholars, such as Paregrave and Aldrovandi, in fact suffered from a disorder of the nerves. The neuromas of NF1 were first detailed by Smith in 1849, but Frederick von Recklinghausen is credited with its discovery and coined the name of the disorder in 1882. NF1 research widely increased between 1909 and 1990, due to the erroneous diagnosis of the Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick.

“Acceptance of the Neuron Theory by Clinical Neurologists of the Late-Nineteenth Century,” by J. Wayne Lazar. The abstract reads:

This article explores reactions of clinical neurologists of the late-nineteenth century to the concept of a unified nerve cell, the “neuron,” which developed from the research on fine anatomy of the nervous system and from conclusions of Waldeyer based on that research. Assessment shows that Waldeyer’s role in the acceptance of the neuron theory was not straightforward. A study of primarily American medical literature shows rapid acceptance, eager applications, and high expectations. Nonetheless, some clinicians were disappointed in its immediate relevance. An explanation for this disappointment is offered.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.

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