Dr Korbinian Brodmann, German Neurologist, Frontpiece of ‘Localisation in the Cerebral Cortex’, 1909, Public Domain*
The Brain is a complex organ, responsible for the full gamete of our inner experiences whether these are our first thoughts on waking, the perception of a rainbow or the sharing of joy with others. Understanding the brain has been an almost unobtainable goal which many great scientists have striven for. One scientist who realised the immense complexity of the task set out to characterise the brain in a more limited way and in the process established one of the most successful maps of the brain which continues to be routinely used over 100 years later. His name was Dr Korbinian Brodmann.
Dr Brodmann was a German Neurologist. He was employed at the University of Berlin and in his role as assistant in the Neurobiological Laboratory was asked to
‘undertake a topographic analysis of the human cerebral cortex based on its cellular structure, in the context of the research programme of this institute‘ (Brodmann, 1908 – Translation)
Dr Brodmann undertook a comparative analysis of the brains of several species including humans and published his results in ‘Localisation in the Cerebral Cortex’ a classic text in the field of Neuroscience. The most widely cited part of the book is his description of the human Cerebral Cortex. In 2006, Laurence Garey published an English translation of his work to improve the accessibility of this landmark study. This translation including the pages of the index stretches to 297 pages.
However the reader might well be surprised to find that the most influential part of this work is contained within a single chapter – Chapter IV – ‘Description of Individual Brain Maps’. The chapter is 66 pages long and references the individual brain maps of several species. The account of the human brain map is contained within 21 pages. The importance of those 21 pages however has helped to define a whole field and influenced the study of Alzheimer’s Disease and Schizophrenia, aided neuroimaging researchers in characterising the function of brain regions and enabled comparative anatomists to characterise the properties of the human brain that distinguish us from other species. In short these are possibly the most important 21 pages in the history of Neuroscience.
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
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