New Issue: J. of the History of the Neurosciences

A new issue of the Journal of the History of the Neurosciences has just been released online. Among the topics addressed in the articles featured in this issue are the work of Swedish neurologist Salomon Henschen (right) to establish an international neurological academy in the late 1920s, taraexin theory of schizophrenia, Robert Bentley Todd’s work on nerve cells, and Franz Joseph Gall’s visit to the Netherlands during his 1805 cranioscopic tour. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Salomon Henschen’s Short-Lived Project of an ‘Academia Neurologica Internationalis’ (1929) For the Revival of the International Brain Commission: Documents from the Cécile and Oskar Vogt Archives,” by Bernd Holdorff. The abstract reads,

In 1929, at the age of 82, the Swedish neurologist Salomon Henschen (1847-1930) planned an Academia Neurologica Internationalis. The exchanged letters with Ceacutecile and Oskar Vogt suggest that there was a great number of neuroscientists internationally who approved of the project. However, during three months of preparation, the initial skepticism increased and, although the invitation to the conference had already been printed, it had to be revoked. The endeavors to revive the Brain Commission failed. Two other projects nonetheless did take shape: the founding of one of the largest and most modern brain research institutes in 1931 by the Vogts and the first International Neurological Congress in Berne that same year. For decades, the Brain Commission remained without successors until the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO) was founded in 1961.

“The Search for an Endogenous Schizogen : The Strange Case of Taraxein,” by Alan Baumeister. The abstract reads,

In 1956, Dr. Robert Galbraith Heath, Chair of Psychiatry and Neurology at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, announced that he and colleagues had discovered a protein they called taraxein in the blood of schizophrenic patients that caused symptoms of schizophrenia when injected into healthy volunteers. Heath’s claim received wide public and professional attention. Researchers quickly tried to confirm the discovery. These efforts, which were rigorous and in some cases conducted in consultation with the Tulane researchers, failed. Nevertheless, for the next four decades Heath continued to defend his claim. This article recounts the scientific developments that led up to Heath’s putative discovery and it explores the scientific findings for and against the taraxein theory of schizophrenia.

“Robert Bentley Todd’s Contribution to Cell Theory and The Neuron Doctrine,” by Devin K. Binder, Kiran F. Rajneesh, Darrin J. Lee, and Edward H. Reynolds. The abstract reads,

Robert Bentley Todd, who is best remembered for “Todd’s paralysis,” made many more important contributions to neurology and neuroscience, including the concept of brain electricity and electrical discharges in epilepsy. He was also a pioneering microscopist and we here review his neurohistological studies and his contributions to the application of Schwann’s (1839) cell theory to the nervous system and the later neuron doctrine, as described in his textbook The Descriptive and Physiological Anatomy of the Brain, Spinal Cord and Ganglions (Todd, 1845), his Cyclopaedia of Anatomy and Physiology (1847) and his joint textbook with William Bowman The Physiological Anatomy and Physiology of Man (1845). Writing in the mid-1840s, Todd acknowledged that the “vesicles” he observed corresponded to the earlier descriptions of “globules” or “kugeln” by Valentin and which Schwann first interpreted as cell bodies. Todd was among the first to recognize that nerve cell bodies were in continuity with axons (“axis cylinders”), sometimes associated with “the white substance of Schwann” (“tubular” fibers), or sometimes without (“gelatinous” fibers). He also described continuous nerve cell branching processes, later called dendrites. He was the first to recognize the insulating properties of Schwann’s “white substance” (myelin) to facilitate conduction. Influenced by his contemporary, Faraday, Todd was also the first to develop the functional concept of dynamic polarization (“nervous polarity”) to explain nerve cell conduction.

“Gall’s Visit to The Netherlands,” by Paul Eling, Douwe Draaisma, and Matthijs Conradi. The abstract reads,

In March 1805, Franz Joseph Gall left Vienna to start what has become known as his cranioscopic tour. He traveled through Germany, Denmark, and The Netherlands. In this article, we will describe his visit to The Netherlands in greater detail, as it has not yet received due attention. Gall was eager to go to Amsterdam because he was interested in the large collection of skulls of Petrus Camper. Gall presented a series of lectures, reports of which can be found in a local newspaper and in a few books, published at that time. We will summarize this material. We will first outline developments in the area of physiognomy, in particular in The Netherlands, and what the Dutch knew about Gall’s doctrine prior to his arrival. We will then present a reconstruction of the contents of the lectures. Finally, we will discuss the reception of his ideas in the scientific community.

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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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