Monthly Archives: September 2012

Is A Historical Narrative Central to the Development of Neuroscience? An Interpretation of Scientific Revolutions – Part 14

Neuroscience is a relatively young branch of science which is being recognised as increasingly important. Discoveries in Neuroscience are informing clinical practice in Psychiatry, Neurology, Neurosurgery as well as in the wider mental health movement. Neuroscience research is varied and ranges from basic cellular and genetic research through to psychological and social studies. A central problem in Neuroscience has been to present a coherent and understandable narrative about what Neuroscience is and how it came about.

In his classic work ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’, Thomas Kuhn wrote extensively about scientific communities. Kuhn saw the most popular scientific discoveries as resulting from anomalies in the central paradigms owned by these same communities. For Kuhn the scientific community was inseparable from the scientific theories worked on by that community. In one sense the scientific theory was a  manifestation of the culture of the scientific community. There was one caveat however. For Kuhn, scientific communities behaved differently to other types of community. They were characterised by standardisation, central paradigms and ‘progress’ of sorts. Kuhn disagreed that there was actual progress. Instead he described the illusion of progress but essentially thought that the ‘gestalt’ paradigm described by the community may have been just as valid as the preceding paradigm.

Kuhn noticed another feature of the scientific community that distinguished scientists from members of other disciplines. Scientists could distill their knowledge in the form of textbooks, standardise their methodology and train scientists efficiently and effectively to undertake specialised scientific research. For Kuhn, science had a quality that led quite naturally to an efficient organisation of the findings from research studies. Although many of these qualities could equally describe other disciplines, the process of science also led quite naturally to the ‘progress’ of normal science. In other words normal science is an activity which must lead to a refinement of the body of scientific knowledge which in turn can reasonably be called progress. In contrast, a new painting in the style of the early 20th century impressionists does not lead inexorably to a refinement of the body of knowledge about impressionism.

For Kuhn, scientists had a strong sense of identity. They knew where they were coming from. They knew the landmark studies. They knew where their research fitted into the greater scheme of things. For Kuhn, historic revisionism produced a seamless historical narrative which obfuscated the complexity of the historical events appreciated by the historiographical connoisseur. There was a kind of practicality about it all. Scientific research led to refinement of the knowledge and historic revisionism pruned the complexity. This practicality was built into the fabric of science. Science was self-contained.

So what might we say about Neuroscience. Neuroscience is very different from other branches of science and shares some of the challenges of Psychiatry. Basic Neuroscience research spans many research communities. Those same communities can reasonably describe themselves as part of the Neuroscience community. The Neuroscience community however is an umbrella community containing a collection of smaller communities. The challenge for Neuroscience is to integrate those communities. This challenge occurs at all levels from the research infrastructure through to the historical narrative and the central paradigms owned by those communities. Indeed for certain communities, there are communities within communities as research becomes ever more specialised.

If as Kuhn asserts, Neuroscientists must establish a historical narrative what would it look like? Perhaps it would consist of a collection of narratives from within those communities. Here the critical question is whether or not Neuroscience needs an overarching historical narrative or a collection of historical narratives. The separate communities continue their research and generate their historical narratives both inside and outside of the wider neuroscience community.  However with increasing interdisciplinary research the findings from separate communities become increasingly important and the communities become more interconnected.

Perhaps this is the lesson for Neuroscience – the historical narrative needed for the formation of a core Neuroscience ‘identity’ will be complex and increasingly so as the body of neuroscience knowledge continues to grow. The neuroscience community must address the issue of identity through historical narrative and meet the significant challenges this poses. If Kuhn is correct, the rewards will be significant in helping Neuroscience to progress at an even greater pace and other related disciplines will benefit from the lessons learnt.

Appendix 1 – Review of Chapter 13 of ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’ on this Site

Chapter 13 in Thomas Kuhn’s ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’ is ‘Progress through Revolutions’. Here Kuhn questions what it is that makes a science. He comments in an interesting way on what differentiates the branches of science. Thus he suggests that a strong sense of identity within a scientific discipline occurs when there is agreement within the community on past and present accomplishments. He also writes about the progress that occurred in the arts as representations became more realistic with refinements in the instruments and techniques of the artist.  The relationship between the scientific community and the paradigm is emphasised as well as the debate that occurs between schools. Kuhn also suggests that although science progresses it does not necessarily progress towards any specific goal. He also reiterates the effectiveness of scientific revolutions followed by periods of normal science in developing a body of scientific knowledge. However he leaves the reader to answer the question ‘what must the world be like for us to know it?’

Related Resources on the TAWOP Site

A Review of the Structure of Scientific Revolutions

An Interpretation of Scientific Revolutions – Part 1

An Interpretation of Scientific Revolutions – Part 2

An Interpretation of Scientific Revolutions – Part 3

An Interpretation of Scientific Revolutions – Part 4

An Interpretation of Scientific Revolutions – Part 5

An Interpretation of Scientific Revolutions – Part 6

An Interpretation of Scientific Revolutions – Part 7 – A Discussion of the Anomaly and Beyond

Do We Need A Crisis in Science For A Revolution to Occur? – An Interpretation of Scientific Revolutions – Part 8

What is the Effect of a Scientific Crisis in Neuroscience? An Interpretation of Scientific Revolutions – Part 9

Has Neuroscience Been Undergoing a Limited Political Revolution Rather Than A Scientific Revolution? An Interpretation of Scientific Revolutions – Part 10

Is Neuroscience a Collection of Neuroscience Memes?: An Interpretation of Scientific Revolutions – Part 11

What Would An Accurate Historical Narrative of Neuroscience Look Like? An Interpretation of Scientific Revolutions – Part 12

Index: There are indices for the TAWOP site here and here Twitter: You can follow ‘The Amazing World of Psychiatry’ Twitter by clicking on this link. Podcast: You can listen to this post on Odiogo by clicking on this link (there may be a small delay between publishing of the blog article and the availability of the podcast). It is available for a limited period. TAWOP Channel: You can follow the TAWOP Channel on YouTube by clicking on this link. Responses: If you have any comments, you can leave them below or alternatively e-mail justinmarley17@yahoo.co.uk. Disclaimer: The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.

Review of Radiopaedia – A Wiki for Radiology

There is a very good site called Radiopaedia which is provided for educational use by medical professionals. In the tradition of ‘Open Science’ the Wikipedia reference on Radiopaedia describes it as a

non-profit-making wiki-based international collaborative radiology educational web resource containing reference articles, radiology images, and patient cases

while the home page of Radiopaedia describes it as

one of the web’s largest collection of radiology cases and reference articles

The site operates under the law of the state of Victoria, Australia and the ‘Terms of Use‘ are extensive including a warranty that all contributors uploading content have the right to upload that content. As a default, the content is assigned a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. At the time of writing there are 9863 cases and 5114 articles. In the About section we learn that the mission of the site is

To develop the most comprehensive online resource where information is up to date and relevant to the needs of the radiology community, and to provide that information for free

In the Encyclopedia section there are useful mnemonics as well as sections on the Central Nervous System and Anatomy. The images load quickly and the site has an effective design. There is a lot of very good educational material on this site which continues to grow in popularity.

An index of the TAWOP site can be found here and here. The page contains links to all of the articles in the blog in chronological order. Twitter: You can follow ‘The Amazing World of Psychiatry’ Twitter by clicking on this link. Podcast: You can listen to this post on Odiogo by clicking on this link (there may be a small delay between publishing of the blog article and the availability of the podcast). It is available for a limited period. TAWOP Channel: You can follow the TAWOP Channel on YouTube by clicking on this link. Responses: If you have any comments, you can leave them below or alternatively e-mail justinmarley17@yahoo.co.uk. Disclaimer: The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.

The Anatomy of the Hippocampal Region: The Most Important 21 Pages In The Field of Neuroscience? Dr Korbinian Brodmann. The Man Who Mapped the Brain. Part 10

Figure 1 -Dr Korbinian Brodmann, German Neurologist, Frontpiece of ‘Localisation in the Cerebral Cortex’, 1909, Public Domain*

Dr Korbinian Brodmann was a German Neurologist who undertook landmark research into the anatomy of the brains of many species including humans. The cornerstone of his work was a detailed microscopic study of the Cerebral Cortex which he related to the gross anatomical structures within the brain. His work has become extremely popular and stood the test of time with his Brodmann Areas remaining essentially unchanged since his 1909 landmark text ‘Brodmann’s Localisation in the Cerebral Cortex’. In the English translation, 21 pages are devoted to the study of the human Cerebral Cortex and these pages form the basis for the current localisation of the Brodmann Areas in humans. Brodmann’s coverage of other regions is covered elsewhere on this site (see Appendix). The last of the regions Brodmann described in humans is the Hippocampal Region. He described the following Brodmann Areas within the Hippocampal Region

Brodmann Area 27: The Presubicular Area.

Brodmann Area 28: The Entorhinal Area.

Brodmann Area 34: The Dorsal Entorhinal Area.

Brodmann Area 35: The Perirhinal Area.

Brodmann Area 48: The Retrosubicular Area.

These will now be covered in turn.

 Figure 1 – Cytoarchitectonics of human brain according to Brodmann (1909), Public Domain*, The Top Diagram is the Lateral Surface of the Cortex, The Bottom Diagram is the Medial Surface

Figure 2 – Three drawings by Santiago Ramon y Cajal, taken from the book “Comparative study of the sensory areas of the human cortex”, pages 314, 361, and 363, Public Domain*

Left: Nissl-stained visual cortex Middle: Nissl-stained motor cortex Right: Golgi-stained cortex 

Stylised Diagram of the Hippocampus - Frank Gaillard

Figure 3 – Stylised Diagram of the Hippocampus, Frank Gaillard, GNU Free Documentation License

Brodmann described the Hippocampal region as extending from the Hippocampal Sulcus (see Figure 3) to the Rhinal Sulcus.

Brodmann Area 27: The Presubicular Area. Brodmann describes the Presubicular Area as continuing directly on from the Subiculum (see Figure 3). He notes that there is a sharp demarcation in moving from the Subiculum to the Presubiculum (and references the change in cytoarchitecture seen in histological slides from the Kangaroo and Wallaby in a different section of the book). However he does not describe the nature of this demarcation in humans.

Brodmann Area 28: The Entorhinal Area. Brodmann describes this as lying adjacent to the Rhinal Sulcus. The anterior border is described as the ‘Temporal Incisura’. The term Incisura means notch and the Temporal Incisura is anatomically related to the Oculomotor Nerve. According to this surgical reference the Temporal Incisura is contained within a region described by the following

transversal line made in front of the cerebral peduncles and another line through the posterior border of the quadrigeminal plate into the anterior, middle and posterior parts

Brodmann suggests this is a vestigial remnant of the Posterior Rhinal Sulcus of other mammals. Brodmann describes the laminar pattern in the cytoarchitecture as characteristic throughout the species he examined. In the ventrolateral part he describes a change in the cytoarchitecture sufficient to enable him to describe the Dorsal Entorhinal Area of Brodmann Area 34.

Brodmann Area 34: The Dorsal Entorhinal Area. Brodmann describes this area simply as above and also as being medial to the Inferior Rhinencephalic Sulcus.

Brodmann Area 35: The Perirhinal Area. Brodmann describes this area as being limited to the Rhinal Sulcus. He also notes the absence of an inner granular layer and that this is the border between the Archipallium and Neopallium. Brodmann suggested that this area could be allocated to either although he seemed to favour the Archicortex in his 1909 work.

Caudal to the Perirhinal Area and lateral to the Presubiculum, Brodmann very briefly mentions the Retrosubicular Area (Brodmann Area 48).

Many of the Brodmann Areas can be seen in the schematic diagrams in Figures 4 and 5.

Figure 4 – Brodmann Areas 27, 28, 34, and 35 (visible on the medial view) Derived from Gray’s Anatomy 20th Edition 1918 Lithograph Reproduction, Public Domain

Figure 5 – Hagmann et al,  (2008), Extract from Figure 1 from Mapping the Structural Core of Human Cerebral Cortex, PLoS Biol 6(7): e159, Creative Commons 2.5 License

 

 

 

References

Brodmann’s Localisation in the Cerebral Cortex. 1909. Translated and Edited by Laurence J Garey. Springer. 2006.

*Public Domain in those countries where the Copyright term of the life of the author (Korbinian Brodmann 1868-1918) plus the additional country specific term has lapsed from Copyright at the time of writing

Appendix

The Most Important 21 Pages In The Field of Neuroscience? Dr Korbinian Brodmann. The Man Who Mapped the Brain. Part 1

The Most Important 21 Pages In The Field of Neuroscience? Dr Korbinian Brodmann. The Man Who Mapped the Brain. Part 2 – The Postcentral Region

The Most Important 21 Pages In The Field of Neuroscience? Dr Korbinian Brodmann. The Man Who Mapped the Brain. Part 3 – The Precentral Region

The Most Important 21 Pages In The Field of Neuroscience? Dr Korbinian Brodmann. The Man Who Mapped the Brain. Part 4 – The Frontal Region

The Most Important 21 Pages In The Field of Neuroscience? Dr Korbinian Brodmann. The Man Who Mapped the Brain. Part 5 – The Parietal Region

The Most Important 21 Pages In The Field of Neuroscience? Dr Korbinian Brodmann. The Man Who Mapped the Brain. Part 6 – The Occipital Region

The Most Important 21 Pages In The Field of Neuroscience? Dr Korbinian Brodmann. The Man Who Mapped the Brain. Part 7 – The Temporal Region

A 103 Year Old Neuroanatomical Mistake? The Most Important 21 Pages In The Field of Neuroscience? Dr Korbinian Brodmann. The Man Who Mapped the Brain. Part 8 – The Insular Region

The Anatomy of the Cingulate Region: The Most Important 21 Pages In The Field of Neuroscience? Dr Korbinian Brodmann. The Man Who Mapped the Brain. Part 9

The Anatomy of the Retrosplenial Region: The Most Important 21 Pages In The Field of Neuroscience? Dr Korbinian Brodmann. The Man Who Mapped the Brain. Part 10

Is it Time for Neuroscientists to Revisit the Brodmann Areas?

An index of the TAWOP site can be found here and here. The page contains links to all of the articles in the blog in chronological order. Twitter: You can follow ‘The Amazing World of Psychiatry’ Twitter by clicking on this link. Podcast: You can listen to this post on Odiogo by clicking on this link (there may be a small delay between publishing of the blog article and the availability of the podcast). It is available for a limited period. TAWOP Channel: You can follow the TAWOP Channel on YouTube by clicking on this link. Responses: If you have any comments, you can leave them below or alternatively e-mail justinmarley17@yahoo.co.uk. Disclaimer: The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.