A quest in neurosciences: neuroportraits

Abstract

Electrophysiology—more than a method but a programme for studying molecular, cellular and even macroscopic organic events—was and is always one of the main corner stones of Pflüger's Archiv! We will attract excellent papers in this field and will also attract more papers from neurosciences, as some special issues in the near future will prove. This ambition is based also on ‘tradition’ as seminal electrophysiological papers were published in Pflüger's Archiv [1]. There is no future without the recognition of history! Do we accept this truth also in science? With this editorial, we will tempt our readers to trace in ‘the sessions of sweet silent thought’ some roots of electrophysiology, neurophysiology, and the history of discovery of electrical events in biological systems. A fascinating journey! For this reason, we will offer our readers access to a highly interesting collection: the ‘neuroportraits’. ‘Perceptual portraits’ like those in Fig. 1 can be seen at a new website devoted to the history of neuroscience (http://neuroportraits.eu/). The intention of the website is to stimulate interest in the history of neuroscience visually. Perceptual portraits represent people in an unconventional style. They generally consist of at least two elements—the portrait and some appropriate motif. The nature of the latter depends upon the endeavours for which the portrayed person was known. In some cases the motif was drawn specifically to display a phenomenon associated with the individual, in others it was derived from a figure or text in one of their books, or apparatus which they invented. The portraits and motifs have themselves been manipulated in a variety of ways, using graphical, photographical and computer graphical procedures. The illustrations often require some effort on the part of the viewer to discern the faces embedded in them. The visual intrigue can enhance the viewer's desire to discover why particular motifs have been adopted, and in turn to learn more about the persons portrayed: neuroportraits are intended to be examples of art serving science. The origins of physiology can be traced back to Jean Fernel (1497–1558) who introduced the term in his Physiologia which was part of his Universa Medica. The subject blossomed in the nineteenth century and was greatly assisted when Pflüger (Fig. 1, left) founded this journal in 1868 [2, 3]. Articles by no lesser figures than Bernstein, Helmholtz, Panum, Donders, Aubert and Exner can be found in volume 1. Indeed, it was in this volume that the first measurements of the speed and waveform of action potentials were presented by Bernstein (Fig. 1, right). The origins of neuroscience are less easy to trace. The term was introduced by Francis Otto Schmitt in the 1960s, but the endeavour itself is much more ancient. It reflects the work of many who conspired to illuminate the structure of the nervous system, the manner of communication within it, its links to reflexes and its relation to more complex behaviour, as well as to perceptual experience. Now, the prefix ‘neuro’ is applied to almost everything! Despite this widespread use, neuroscience is seldom accorded a definition of any detail. It thrives on its vague appeal to advances that are N. Wade (*) School of Psychology, University of Dundee, Dundee DD1 4HN, UK e-mail: n.j.wade@dundee.ac.uk

DOI: 10.1007/s00424-011-0968-8

1 Figure or Table

Cite this paper

@article{Wade2011AQI, title={A quest in neurosciences: neuroportraits}, author={Nicholas J. Wade and Bernd Nilius and Marco Piccolino}, journal={Pfl{\"{u}gers Archiv - European Journal of Physiology}, year={2011}, volume={461}, pages={591-592} }