Neuropsychologists

Paul Broca

Paul Broca

In parallel with his medical career, in 1848, Broca founded a society of free-thinkers, sympathetic to Charles Darwin’s theories.

He once remarked, “I would rather be a transformed ape than a degenerate son of Adam”. This brought him into conflict with the church, which regarded him as a subversive, materialist, and a corrupter of the youth. The church’s animosity toward him continued throughout his lifetime, resulting in numerous confrontations between Broca and the ecclesiastical authorities.

He also joined and in 1865 became the president of the Societe de Chirurgie (Surgery).

He was elected to the chair of external pathology at the Faculty of Medicine in 1867, and one year later professor of clinical surgery. In 1868, he was elected a member of the Académie de medicine, and appointed the Chair of clinical surgery. He served in this capacity until his death. He also worked for the Hôpital St. Antoine, the Pitié, the Hôtel des Clinques, and the Hôpital Necker.

He died of a brain hemorrhage on 9 July 1880, at the age of 56.

The discovery of Broca’s area revolutionized the understanding of language processing, speech production, and comprehension, as well as what effects damage to this area may cause. Broca played a major role in the localization of function debate, by resolving the issue scientifically with Leborgne and his 12 cases thereafter. His research led others to discover the location of a wide variety of other functions, specifically Wernicke’s area.

*28 June 1824, Sainte-Foy-la-Grande, Gironde, Kingdom of France

†9 July 1880, Paris, France

Pierre Paul Broca was a French physician, anatomist and anthropologist. He is best known for his research on Broca’s area, a region of the frontal lobe that is named after him. Broca’s area is involved with language.

His work revealed that the brains of patients suffering from aphasia contained lesions in a particular part of the cortex, in the left frontal region. This was the first anatomical proof of localization of brain function. Broca’s work also contributed to the development of physical anthropology, advancing the science of anthropometry.

 Huguenot Broca received basic education in the school in his hometown, earning a bachelor’s degree at the age of 16. He entered medical school in Paris when he was 17, and graduated at 20, when most of his contemporaries were just beginning as medical students.

After graduating, Broca undertook an extensive internship, first with the urologist and dermatologist Philippe Ricord at the Hôpital du Midi, then in 1844 with the psychiatrist François Leuret at the Bicêtre Hospital.

In 1845, he became an intern with Pierre Nicolas Gerdy, a great anatomist and surgeon. After two years with Gerdy, Broca became his assistant. In 1848, Broca became the Prosector, performing dissections for lectures of anatomy, at the University of Paris Medical School.

In 1849, he was awarded a medical doctorate. In 1853, Broca became professor agrégé, and was appointed surgeon of the hospital.

As a researcher, Broca joined the Society Anatomique de Paris in 1847. During his first six years in the society, Broca was its most productive contributor. Two months after joining, he was on the society’s journal editorial committee. He became its secretary and then vice president by 1851. Soon after its creation in 1848, Broca joined the Société de Biologie.


Julian de Ajuriaguerra

Julian de Ajuriaguerra

In 1950, Ajuriaguerra obtained French Nationality which allowed him to pass the “baccalaureat” examination and obtain the recognition of his title as a doctor.

In 1959, he replaced Professor Ferdinand Morel at the Bel-Air psychiatric hospital in Geneva, which he directed until 1975.

He enabled psychiatry in Geneva to develop and become a reference. Psychoanalysts worked together with neurologists in spirit of emulation and collaboration rarely attained in this domain. He also perfected his technique of relaxation, the “Ajuriaguerra method”.

He then left Geneva for Paris, where he became professor at the Collège de France. This institution provided Prof. Dr. Ajuriaguerra the support to express the deep insight of his neuropsychiatric and humanistic approach.

He then became a reference and has influenced a whole new generation of researchers in medical and life sciences, as illustrated in the work of Prof. Dr. Mario Christian Meyer.

He continued an intense activity of research and teaching both in France and Spain. In 1986, he terminated his professional activities due to illness.

*7 January 1911, Bilbao, Spain

†23 May 1993, Villefranque (Pyrénées-Atlantiques)

Julian de Ajuriaguerra was a Spanish-French neuropsychiatrist and psychoanalyst of Spanish Basque origin. He is one of the pioneers of “sectoral psychiatry” in France.

Brought up in Bilbao in a traditional family, he left for Paris at the age of 16, where he studied Medicine. He becomes a non-resident student in psychiatry at Sainte-Anne Hospital. Because of his status as a foreign student, he was not paid until 1950, so he was compelled to work on night duty until the prohibition of this practice under the Vichy regime.

He attended the seminars on Gaetan Gatian de Clérambault and Pierre Janetin particular, and took an interest in the Surrealists.

He finished his medical studies both in France and Spain, where the Civil War prevented him from taking his final exams.

His thesis, pain in the disease of the central nervous system, concluded in 1936, and was prefaced by Jean Lhermitte, for whom he would become assistant in the Laboratory of the anatomy of the nervous system from 1938 to 1946.

A member of the French Resistance during the war, he passed the aggregation examination and was appointed professor of neurology and psychiatry.

Ajuriaguerra met the psychoanalyst René Diatkine, with whom he opened a consulting office for psychomotricity and language problems. They created the scientific magazine Child Psychiatry. He then underwent a psychoanalysis with Sacha Nacht.


Ralph Reitan

Ralph Reitan

This was his first exposure to soldiers with brain injuries. It was here that he met Ward Halstead who encouraged Reitan to apply to graduate school and subsequently offered him a position as a graduate research assistant in his laboratory.

It was in this laboratory that Reitan learned how to test and observed performances and deficiencies of brain lesioned patients. He was also greatly influenced by Edward Thorndike’s work in statistics, measurement, and psychometrics.

In 1951, Reitan became the sole psychologist on the faculty in the Surgery and Neurology department at Indiana University Medical Center when he joined as Assistant Professor of Surgery. He established a research lab there focused on brain-behavior relationships. Reitan began giving invited speeches in 1954, often speaking at meetings of the American Psychological Association, and by the 1960s, he was directing three-day workshops on the presentation and analysis of test data.

In 1970, Reitan accepted a professorship at the University of Washington School of Medicine. He later moved to the University of Arizona’s Department of Psychology where he finished his career.

He was a strong advocate of use of a fixed battery in neuropsychological assessment, published prolifically, and mentored many students who also became prominent in the field. As an author, he has been collected by libraries.

He died on 24 August 2014 aged 91 in Mesa, Arizona.

*29 August 1922, Beresford, South Dakota

†24 August 2014, Mesa, Arizona

Ralph M. Reitan was an American neuropsychologist and one of the fathers of American clinical neuropsychology having brought the notion of brain-behavior relationships to the forefront of the field. He is best known for his role in developing the Halstead-Reitan Neuropsychological Battery and his strong belief in empiricism and evidence-based practice.

Growing up during the Great Depression, Reitan worked to help support his family as he grew up and graduated from the Chicago Central YMCA High School for Boys. After attending two years of college, Reitan attempted to join the U.S. Marine Corps but was declared medically ineligible.

He then enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942 and completed a third year of college while waiting to be called up. He dislocated his shoulder repeatedly during basic training, was discharged, and returned to college to earn his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Central YMCA College in Chicago in 1944.

Reitan graduated with a BA in psychology from Central YMCA College in Chicago in 1944. He started graduated school at the University of Chicago in 1945 to pursue a doctorate in psychology. He took both psychology courses and two years of medical courses while doing research in Ward Halstead’s lab assessing the behavioral effects of brain injury in humans.

However, he never received any graduate credit for working Halstead’s lab because it was in the medical school and would not be accepted by the Psychology department. Within the Psychology department, Reitan was advised by Louis Leon Thurstone.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree, Reitan worked as a psychometrist at the Chicago Armed Forces Induction Station, using tests to see whether inductees had basic reading and writing abilities and could therefore be accepted into the army. Despite a lack of doctoral training, he was recommended from there for a job as a psychologist and began working at the Mayo General Hospital in Galesburg, Illinois in 1945.


Igor Grant

Igor Gant

In the next decade he coordinated studies into the effects of hypoxemia, and oxygen treatment, on cognitive functions in people with COPD. He established the multidisciplinary and translational HIV Neurobehavioral Research Center (HNRC) in 1989.

The HIV Neurobehavioral Research Program  has contributed to understanding of how HIV can disrupt brain function, and how abuse of drugs such as methamphetamine can compound this injury.

In 2000 he established the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research, focused on potential uses, and limitations, of cannabinoids as medicines.

Another theme in Grant’s research focused on the effects of stress on health. He reported that stressful life events were associated with onset and worsening of symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Work on the stress experienced by elderly spousal caregivers of dementia patients explored how negative affect, sleep disturbance, and sympatho-adrenal-medullary arousal contributed to cardiovascular risk in care providers.

*26 March 1942

Igor Grant  is an American psychiatrist. He is Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego. He is Director of the HIV Neurobehavioral Research Program (HNRP) and the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR).

Grant is the founding Editor of the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society and founding co-editor of the journal AIDS and Behavior.

His work focuses on effects of HIV and drug use, particularly alcohol, medical marijuana, and methamphetamine.

Grant attended Kitsilano High School Kitsilano Secondary School where he was active in student government and the United Nations club. In 1958 he became one of a group of students who travelled across Canada and the USA to visit the UN after winning public speaking competitions.

After graduating from KHS in 1959 Grant attended the University of British Columbia, earning his doctor of medicine degree in 1966, and receiving several honors including the Frank Horner Medal for the Highest Standing in Medicine. He then went to the University of Pennsylvania.

From 1966 to 1967 he did his internship at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, then received his psychiatry training in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. He served as Chief Resident in Psychiatry from 1970 to 1971, Instructor in Psychiatry from 1970 to 1972, and was Staff Psychiatrist for Psychiatric Inpatient Service at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania from 1971 to 1972. In 1972, he began his affiliation with the University of California, San Diego and the VA San Diego Healthcare System.

At UCSD Grant rose from Assistant Professor to full Professor in 1982, Distinguished Professor in 2006 and Mary Gilman Marston Professor in Psychiatry in 2016. He served as Chair of the UC San Diego Department of Psychiatry from 2014-2019.

Grant’s primary research has focused on the effects of diseases and substance abuse on brain and behavior. His work on alcoholism demonstrated that long-term abstinence was associated with normalization in neurocognitive functions and long-term survival. He led the Collaborative Neuropsychological Study of Polydrug Users in the 1970s, one of the earliest studies into the effects of multiple drug use on the brain.


Brenda Milner

Brenda Milner

Milner was a pioneer in the field of neuropsychology and in the study of memory and other cognitive functions in humankind. She was invited to Hartford to study Henry Molaison, formerly known as patient H.M., who became the most famous patient in cognitive neuroscience.

She has made major contributions to the understanding of the role of the frontal lobes in memory processing, in the area of organizing information. “Dr. Milner’s seminal research has provided many landmark discoveries in the study of human memory and the brain’s temporal lobes, which play a key role in emotional responses, hearing, memory and speech.”

Her current work covers many aspects of neuropsychology including her lifelong interest in the involvement of the temporal lobes in episodic memory.  She is sometimes referred to as “the founder of neuropsychology” and has proven to be an essential key in its development.

As of 2017 Milner had still been teaching and researching. She is the Dorothy J. Killam Professor at the Montreal Neurological Institute, and a professor in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University.

She received the Balzan Prize for Cognitive Neuroscience, in 2009, and the Kavli Prize in Neuroscience, together with John O’Keefe, and Marcus E. Raichle, in 2014.

*15 July 1918, Manchester, England

Brenda Milner is a British-Canadian neuropsychologist who has contributed extensively to the research literature on various topics in the field of clinical neuropsychology.

Milner is a professor in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University and a professor of Psychology at the Montreal Neurological Institute. As of 2005, she holds more than 20 honorary degrees and continues to work in her nineties.

She attended Withington Girls’ School, which led her to attend Newnham College, Cambridge, to study mathematics, having received a scholarship in 1936. However, after realizing she was not “perceptive” enough for mathematics, Milner changed her field of study to psychology. In 1939, Milner graduated with a B.A. degree in experimental psychology, which at that time was considered a moral science.

After her graduation near the time of World War II Newnham College awarded her a Sarah Smithson Research Studentship, which allowed her to attend Newnham for the following two years. As a result of World War II, the work of the Cambridge Psychological Laboratory, under Bartlett’s leadership, was diverted almost overnight to applied research in the selection of aircrew.

In 1949, Brenda Milner graduated with a M.A. in experimental psychology in Cambridge. In Montreal, she became a Ph.D. candidate in physiological psychology at McGill University, under the direction of Donald Olding Hebb.

While working on her Ph.D., Milner and Hebb presented research on their patient P.B. who had undergone a medial temporal lobectomy and had subsequent memory impairment. This garnered the attention of Wilder Penfield.

In 1954, Milner published an article in the McGill University Psychological Bulletin entitled ‘Intellectual Function of the Temporal Lobes’. In this publication she presented data that showed that temporal lobe damage can cause emotional and intellectual changes in humans and lower primates.

In this work, Milner reviewed animal studies of neural function and compared it to human neuroscience work. Her publication discouraged many neurosurgeons from completing surgeries on human beings that could negatively impact their lives.


Jaak Panksepp

Jaak Panksepp

Panksepp is also well known for publishing a paper in 1979 suggesting that opioid peptides could play a role in the etiology of autism, which proposed that autism may be “an emotional disturbance arising from an upset in the opiate systems in the brain”.

In his book Affective Neuroscience, Panksepp described how efficient learning may be conceptually achieved through the generation of subjectively experienced neuroemotional states that provide simple internalized codes of biological value that correspond to major life priorities .

Panksepp carved out seven biologically inherited primary affective systems called SEEKING (expectancy), FEAR (anxiety), RAGE (anger), LUST (sexual excitement), CARE (nurturance), PANIC/GRIEF (sadness), and PLAY (social joy). He proposed what is known as “core-SELF” to be generating these affects.

*5 June 1943, Tartu, Estonia

†18 April 2017, Bowling Green, Ohio, U.S.

Jaak Panksepp was an Estonian-American neuroscientist and psychobiologist who coined the term “affective neuroscience”, the name for the field that studies the neural mechanisms of emotion.

He was the Baily Endowed Chair of Animal Well-Being Science for the Department of Veterinary and Comparative Anatomy, Pharmacology, and Physiology at Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and Emeritus Professor of the Department of Psychology at Bowling Green State University. He was known in the popular press for his research on laughter in non-human animals.

He studied initially at University of Pittsburgh in 1964, and then did a Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts.

Panksepp conducted many experiments; in one with rats, he found that the rats showed signs of fear when cat hair was placed close to them, even though they had never been anywhere near a cat.

Panksepp theorized from this experiment that it is possible laboratory research could routinely be skewed due to researchers with pet cats. He attempted to replicate the experiment using dog hair, but the rats displayed no signs of fear.

In the 1999 documentary Why Dogs Smile and Chimpanzees Cry, he is shown to comment on the research of joy in rats: the tickling of domesticated rats made them produce a high-pitch sound which was hypothetically identified as laughter.


Christof Koch

Christof Koch

He and his student Nao Tsuchiya invented continuous flash suppression, an efficient psychophysical masking technique for rendering images invisible for many seconds. They have used this technique to argue that selective attention and consciousness are distinct phenomena, with distinct biological functions and mechanisms.

Koch’s primary collaborator in the endeavor of locating the neural correlates of consciousness was the molecular biologist turned neuroscientist, Francis Crick, starting with their first paper in 1990 and their last one, on the relationship between the claustrum, a mysterious anatomical structure situated underneath the insular cortex, and consciousness.

Over the last decade, Koch has worked closely with the psychiatrist and neuroscientist Giulio Tononi.

Koch advocates for a modern variant of panpsychism, the ancient philosophical belief that some form of consciousness can be found in all things. Tononi’s Integrated Information Theory (IIT) of consciousness differs from classical panpsychism in that it only ascribes consciousness to things with some degree of irreducible cause-effect power, which could include the internet “Thus, its sheer number of components exceeds that of any one human brain.

In early 2011, Koch became the chief scientist and the President of the Allen Institute for Brain Science, leading their ten-year project concerning high-throughput large-scale cortical coding. The mission is to understand the computations that lead from photons to behavior by observing and modeling the physical transformations of signals in the visual brain of behaving mice.

*13 November 1956, Kansas City, Missouri

Christof Koch is a German-American neuroscientist best known for his work on the neural basis of consciousness. He is the president and chief scientist of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle. From 1986 until 2013, he was a professor at the California Institute of Technology.

His interest in consciousness commenced as an child when he decided that consciousness must apply to all animals not just humans.

He received a PhD in sciences for his works in the field of nonlinear information processing from the Max Planck Institute in Tübingen, Germany, in 1982.

Koch worked for four years at the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT before joining, in 1986, the newly started Computation and Neural Systems PhD program at the California Institute of Technology.

Koch has authored more than 300 scientific papers and five books about how computers and neurons process information.

In 1986, Koch and Shimon Ullman proposed the idea of a visual saliency map in the primate visual system. Subsequently, his then PhD-student, Laurent Itti, and Koch developed a popular suite of visual saliency algorithms.

For over two decades, Koch and his students have carried out detailed biophysical simulations of the electrical properties of neuronal tissue, from simulating the details of the action potential propagation along axons and dendrites to the synthesis of the local field potential and the EEG from the electrical activity of large populations of excitable neurons.

Since the early 1990s, Koch has argued that identifying the mechanistic basis of consciousness is a scientifically tractable problem, and has been influential in arguing that consciousness can be approached using the modern tools of neurobiology.


Alexander Luria

Alexander Luria

He was one of the founders of Cultural-Historical Psychology, and a leader of the Vygotsky Circle, also known as “Vygotsky-Luria Circle”. Apart from his work with Vygotsky, Luria is widely known for two extraordinary psychological case studies: The Mind of a Mnemonist, about Solomon Shereshevsky, who had highly advanced memory; and The Man with a Shattered World, about Lev Zasetsky, a man with a severe traumatic brain injury.

During his career Luria worked in a wide range of scientific fields at such institutions as the Academy of Communist Education (1920-1930s), Experimental Defectological Institute (1920-1930s, 1950-1960s, both in Moscow), Ukrainian Psychoneurological Academy (Kharkiv, early 1930s), All-Union Institute of Experimental Medicine, and the Burdenko Institute of Neurosurgery (late 1930s).

A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Luria as the 69th most cited psychologist of the 20th century.

Luria’s magnum opus, Higher Cortical Functions in Man (1962), is a much-used psychological textbook which has been translated into many languages and which he supplemented with The Working Brain in 1973.

*16 July 1902, Kazan, Russian Empire

†14 August 1977, Moscow, Soviet Union

Alexander Romanovich Luria was a Soviet neuropsychologist, often credited as a father of modern neuropsychological assessment. He developed an extensive and original battery of neuropsychological tests during his clinical work with brain-injured victims of World War II, which are still used in various forms. He made an in-depth analysis of the functioning of various brain regions and integrative processes of the brain in general.

As examples of the vigorous growth of new research related to Luria’s original research during his own lifetime are the fields of linguistic aphasia, anterior lobe pathology, speech dysfunction, and child neuropsychology.

In 1924, Luria met Lev Vygotsky, who would influence him greatly. The union of the two psychologists gave birth to what subsequently was termed the Vygotsky, or more precisely, the Vygotsky-Luria Circle.

During the 1920s Luria also met a large number of scholars, including Aleksei N. Leontiev, Mark Lebedinsky, Alexander Zaporozhets, Bluma Zeigarnik, many of whom would remain his lifelong colleagues. Following Vygotsky and along with him, in mid-1920s Luria launched a project of developing a psychology of a radically new kind.

It is less known that Luria’s main interests, before the war, were in the field of psycho-semantics (that is, research into how people attribute meaning to words and instructions). He became famous for his studies of low-educated populations in the south of the Soviet Union showing that they use different categorization than the educated world (determined by functionality of their tools).

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