New Issue: JHN

The Journal of the History of the Neurosciences‘s first issue of 2011 has just been released online. Included in this issue are seven all new articles. Among the topics addressed in these articles are the vision research of William Wells, anthropological neurology, the origins of the concept of the “dreamy state,” early twentieth century work on recovery after cortical lesions, the early understanding of “psychic blindness” or visual agnosia, and the original meaning of the term “lunatic”. Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“The Singular Vision of William Charles Wells (1757–1817),” by Nicholas J. Wade, Hiroshi Ono, Alistair P. Mapp, and Linda Lillakas. The abstract reads,

William Charles Wells retained an interest in vision throughout his life. His first book was on single vision with two eyes; he integrated vision and eye movements to determine principles of visual direction. On the basis of experiments and observations he formulated three principles of visual direction, which can readily be demonstrated. In the course of these studies, he also examined visual acuity, accommodation and convergence, visual persistence, and visual vertigo. Insights into visual processing were mainly derived from observations of afterimages that were used to provide an index of how the eyes moved. His experiments enabled him to distinguish between the consequences of active and passive eye movements (later called outflow and inflow) as well as describing nystagmus following body rotation. After providing a brief account of Wells’s life, his neglected research on vision is described and assessed.

“Anthropological Neurology: Symptoms and Their Meanings According to Joseph Prick (1909–1978),” by B.C. ter Meulen, W. J. M. Dekkers, A. Keyser, and T. C. A. M. van Woerkom. The abstract reads,

This article describes the life and work of the Dutch neurologist Joseph Prick (1909-1978) and his idea of an anthropological neurology. According to Prick, neurological symptoms should not only be explained from an underlying physico-chemical substrate but also be regarded as meaningful. We present an outline of the historical and philosophical context of his ideas with a focus on the theory of the human body by the French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961) and the concept of anthropology-based medicine developed by Frederik Buytendijk (1887-1974). We give an overview of anthropological neurology as a clinical practice and finally we discuss the value of Prick’s approach for clinical neurology today.

“The Stepping Test: A Step Back In History,” by Christian Grommes and Devon Conway. The abstract reads,

The stepping test is a valuable part of the neurological examination that is used to localize labyrinthine pathology. The test is known by two eponyms: the “Fukuda Test” in the United States and Asia and the “Unterberger Test” in Europe. Some controversy exists as to which name is correct. Siegfried Unterberger was an Austrian otolaryngologist who initially described the test in 1939. It was modified in 1959 by Tadashi Fukuda, a Japanese otolaryngologist, who introduced a method to better quantify the test results. Thus, the test should be called the “Unterberger Test,” unless Fukuda’s methods for measurement are used.

“An Approach to Nineteenth-Century Medical Lexicon: The Term ‘Dreamy State’,” by Esther Lardreau. The abstract reads,

Hughlings-Jackson coined the concept of dreamy state: According to him, one of the sensations of a “dreamy state” was an odd feeling of recognition and familiarity, often called “deja vu”. A clear sense of strangeness could also be experienced in the “dreamy state” (“jamais vu”). Jackson himself did not use these French terms, but he was quite clear about the vivid feelings of strangeness and familiarity, which can occur in both normal and pathological conditions.

In order to explore some of the exchanges between medical and nonmedical vocabularies, we examine the historical origins of this technical concept. By basing the study on European (medical and nonmedical) literature of the nineteenth century, we review the first descriptions of this state and compare them with the famous Hughlings-Jackson definitions.

It appears that this medical concept was partly borrowed from a wide cultural background before being rationally developed and reworked in the fields of neurology and psychiatry.

“Postlesion Recovery of Motor and Sensory Cortex in the Early Twentieth Century,” by Mario Wiesendanger. The abstract reads,

This article addresses early work on partial recovery that followed small motor cortical lesions. Leyton and Sherrington (1917) studied the motor cortex in apes, hoping to learn more about the contralateral muscle representations. Then they placed small lesions within the precentral cortex, followed by a loss of the contralateral muscle twitches. The sudden loss remained for about one week, but recovery was observed and continued for weeks, up to a standstill. Sherrington and Graham Brown (1913) observed the same results in a serial, chronic experiment on a chimpanzee. The brain was sent to Monakow’s Brain-Institute in Zurich for investigating the lesions and the degeneration pattern. Constantin von Monakow (1853-1930) had been a pioneer on recovery after acute lesions, coining the term “diaschisis.” During WWI, Graham Brown and Stewart (1916) studied a soldier in a British army hospital who suffered from a cerebral gunshot wound, localized in the sensorimotor cortex. Early and prolonged rehabilitation was successful. In 1950, Glees (1909-1999) and Cole (Oxford) placed a small motor-cortical lesion in macaque monkeys; for a few days, the monkeys had difficulties and were slow for the task. Daily training was resumed and recovery was accelerated by alimentary reward. Finally, Lashley (1890-1958) understood that handicapped patients “achieved their goal with variable means.” This demonstrated the value of active and prolonged rehabilitation, in addition to the (passive) recovery of function.

“Psychic Blindness or Visual Agnosia: Early Descriptions of a Nervous Disorder,” by Christian Baumann. The abstract reads,

This article briefly reports on three early contributions to the understanding of visual agnosia as a syndrome sui generis. The authors of the respective papers worked in different fields such as physiology, ophthalmology, and neurology, and, although they were not in direct contact with each other, their results converged upon a consistent view of a nervous disorder that they called psychic blindness.

“The Disease of the Moon: The Linguistic and Pathological Evolution of the English Term ‘Lunatic’,” by M. A. Riva, L. Tremolizzo, M. Spicci, C. Ferrarese, G. De Vito, G. C. Cesana, and V. A. Sironi. The abstract reads,

The public opinion and the scientific community incorrectly believe that the English term “lunatic” was originally related only to insanity, but it also referred to epileptic people. The aim of this article is to clarify the original meaning of the English word “lunatic” by analyzing the evolution of the relationship between psychiatric and neurological diseases and by pointing out the influence of the moon in the history of medicine, in popular traditions, and in English literature. The article also contains a detailed and accurate review of the modern scientific literature on the relationship between moon and epilepsy/psychiatric disorders.

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.