Von Economo: An inspiring figure in van Bogaert's neuroscientific career

Geneviève AUBERT
Department of Neurology, Cliniques Universitaires Saint-Luc, Université Catholique de Louvain, Bruxelles, Belgium
aubert AT nops.ucl.ac.be

The epidemic of encephalitis lethargica began in the winter of 1916 in Austria, and by 1919, cases had been reported throughout the world. The clinical and pathological findings of this condition were thoroughly described in 1917 by Constantin von Economo (1876-1931), an internationally respected neurologist and brain scientist. Over several years, he studied the disease in his evolution, natural history, and sequelae and in 1929, he presented a synthesis of these studies which was translated to English 2 years later. In 1922 and 1923, the Belgian Ludo van Bogaert (1897-1989), was in Paris, training in neurology and neuropathology, with Pierre Marie, Marcel Labbé, Charles Foix and Joseph Babinski. It was precisely in Pierre Marie's department that Tretiakoff developed his thesis emphasizing for the first time the significance of lesions in the locus niger both in Parkinson's disease and in the parkinsonian form of encephalitis. Deeply impressed by the pandemic, van Bogaert visited von Economo in Vienna. This grew up to rich scientific exchanges in the fields of cerebral architectonics and encephalitis. In 1924, van Bogaert dedicated one of his first publications to a case report of encephalitis lethargica with respiratory and hepatic syndrome. During the following decade, several of his publications dealt with various aspects of the disease, particularly the late dramatic complications characterized by a gamut of involuntary movements observed in survivors. In 1979, van Bogaert , then 82 year old, returned to his first interest and to his old friend. With Theodorides, he wrote a monograph dedicated to von Economo and his achievements. It was one of his last publications.

Session IV.  Movement Disorders
Friday, 23 June 2006, 2.00 - 2.30 pm

11th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN)

Pavia, Italy, 2006