"Mos Angeles": the impact of the Moscow Colloquium on Electroencephalography of Higher Nervous System Activity on international brain research

Institute for the History of Medicine, Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, Moscow, Russia
licht AT aha.ru

The late 1950s was a period of recognition of Russian neurophysiology by the international neuroscience community and vice versa. This process of “opening windows in both directions” might be illustrated by The Moscow Colloquium on Electroencephalography of Higher Nervous System Activity.

This paper is based on unpublished records of international contacts of Soviet neurophysiologists and organization of the Moscow Colloquium from the Archive of Russian Academy of Science (ARAN), reports in Soviet periodicals, publications in Festschriften, etc.

The Colloquium took place on October 6-11, 1958 at the House of Scientists in Moscow. It was organized by Academy of Sciences of USSR under the initiative of the Institute for Higher Nervous Activity and focused at: 1) EEG correlates of cortical excitation and inhibition; 2) electrophysiological study of different brain structures and their role in conditioned reflexes and 3) EEG of higher nervous activity in humans.

There were 46 participants from 17 countries who delivered 29 talks during 10 sessions. At the final session it was suggested to launch an International Year for Study of Brain and to ask UNESCO for international coordination of brain research. This resulted into the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO) founded in 1960.

Horace W. Magoun (1907-1991) from UCLA was one of participants of the Moscow Colloquium. In February 1958 he chaired a special conference in USA dedicated to Russian contributions to an understanding of the central nervous system and behavior. The attempts to link the Pavlovian concept of conditioned reflexes and the teaching on the role of brainstem reticular formation might be traced into Magoun’s papers published in Festschriften dedicated to Soviet neurophysiologists I.S. Beritashvili (J. Beritoff ), P.S.Kupalov and P.K.Anokhin. In his preface to the second Russian edition of Magoun’s The Waking Brain (Moscow, 1965) Anokhin quotes a private letter of the author who considered this book as a joint effort of Los Angeles physiologists and their Russian counterparts from Ivan Sechenov onwards.


Session XII.  Moscow Colloquium
Saturday, 23 June 2007, 2:30 - 3:00 pm

12th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences   (ISHN)
Los Angeles, California, USA, 19-23 June 2007