New Issue: Journal of the History of the Neurosciences

The fall 2013 issue of the Journal of the History of the Neurosciences is now online.  Included in this issue are articles on the research into Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep in the 1960s, investigations of animal electricity by Alexander von Humboldt (above), and the academic status of neurobiology in Argentina in the 1920s, among others. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Alexander von Humboldt: Galvanism, Animal Electricity, and Self-Experimentation Part 2: The Electric Eel, Animal Electricity, and Later Years,” by Stanley Finger, Marco Piccolino & Frank W. Stahnisch. The abstract reads,

After extensive experimentation during the 1790s, Alexander von Humboldt remained skeptical about “animal electricity” (and metallic electricity), writing instead about an ill-defined galvanic force. With his worldview and wishing to learn more, he studied electric eels in South America just as the new century began, again using his body as a scientific instrument in many of his experiments. As had been the case in the past and for many of the same reasons, some of his findings with the electric eel (and soon after, Italian torpedoes) seemed to argue against biological electricity. But he no longer used galvanic terminology when describing his electric fish experiments. The fact that he now wrote about animal electricity rather than a different “galvanic” force owed much to Alessandro Volta, who had come forth with his “pile” (battery) for multipling the physical and perceptable effects of otherwise weak electricity in 1800, while Humboldt was deep in South America. Humboldt probably read about and saw voltaic batteries in the United States in 1804, but the time he spent with Volta in 1805 was probably more significant in his conversion from a galvanic to an electrical framework for understanding nerve and muscle physiology. Although he did not continue his animal electricity research program after this time, Humboldt retained his worldview of a unified nature and continued to believe in intrinsic animal electricity. He also served as a patron to some of the most important figures in the new field of electrophysiology (e.g., Hermann Helmholtz and Emil du Bois-Reymond), helping to take the research that he had participated in to the next level.

“Cerebrocerebellar System and Türck’s Bundle,” by Eliasz Engelhardt. The abstract reads,

The cerebellum is presently recognized as an important structure for cognitive, emotional, and behavioral integration and exerts such activities through its newer parts that belong to the cerebrocerebellar system. Two bundles relate the cerebral cortex to the cerebellum—an anterior (frontopontine) projection (Arnold’s bundle) and a posterior (temporo-occipito-parietal-pontine) projection (Türck’s bundle). The historical development and the controversies about the eponym of the bundle named after Türck is reviewed. Besides the researchers and authors that were in agreement with Meynert, of a tract he described, and apparently in a deliberate way named after Türck, others rose to contest the eponym, considering it a misnomer. Despite some controversies, this bundle deserves to maintain the name, Türck’s bundle, to honor the outstanding researcher that described it and named it after a notable colleague, possibly as a tribute, and also to mark the difficulties that surrounded this episode of neurological history.

“An Avant-Garde Professorship of Neurobiology in Education: Christofredo Jakob (1866–1956) and the 1920s Lead of the National University of La Plata, Argentina,” by Zoe D. Théodoridou, Athanasios Koutsoklenis, Manuel del Cerro & Lazaros C. Triarhou. The abstract reads,

The interdisciplinary trend in “Mind, Brain, and Education” has witnessed dynamic international growth in recent years. Yet, it remains little known that the National University of La Plata in Argentina probably holds the historical precedent as the world’s first institution of higher education that formally included neurobiology in the curriculum of an educational department, having done so as early as 1922. The responsibility of teaching neurobiology to educators was assigned to Professor Christofredo Jakob (1866–1956). In the present article, we highlight Jakob’s emphasis on interdisciplinarity and, in particular, on the neuroscientific foundations of education, including special education.

“The Study of Epilepsy in the Netherlands in the Nineteenth Century,” by Paul Eling. The abstract reads,

In the nineteenth century, there was a continuous debate on the structure and function of the brain, focusing on localization of function and on epilepsy. France, Germany, and England played a leading role. This article addresses the question of what happened with respect to the study of epilepsy in the Netherlands in that period. A systematic search of the literature has been performed and papers by Schroeder van der Kolk, Huet, Jelgersma, and Niermeijer are discussed. Also two dissertations were selected for discussion, those of Kroon and Langelaan. It is concluded that from a scientific point of view, only the paper by Schroeder van der Kolk deserved and received international attention.

“Coming to Grips with a “New” State of Consciousness: The Study of Rapid-Eye-Movement Sleep in the 1960s,” by Adrian R. Morrison. The abstract reads,

The recognition of rapid-eye-movement sleep (REM) and its association with dreaming in 1953 by Aserinsky and Kleitman opened a new world to explore in the brain. Discussions at two major symposia in the early 1960s reveal that a state with characteristics resembling both wakefulness and sleep was overturning accepted views of the regulation of the two states. Participants grappled with the idea that cortical activation could occur during sleep. They struggled with picking a name that would capture the essence of REM without focusing on just one aspect of the state. Questioning whether REM in cats could be homologous with that of humans suggested an anthropocentric focus on human dreaming as the essence of the state. The need for biochemical studies was evident given that deprivation of REM caused a rebound in the amount of subsequent REM, which indicated that simple synaptic activity could not support this phenomenon.

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.