Medicine: 1932

Monday, November 16, 2009

1) Adrian, Edgar Douglas (1889-1977), a British physiologist, made significant discoveries about neurons (nerve cells) and their functions. Adrian's main research field was the study of nerve impulses from sense organs. Adrian was awarded the 1932 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine, and shared the prize with Sir Charles Sherrington.

Adrian designed, built, and developed much equipment (including cathode-ray tubes, capillary electrometers, and thermionic valves) to amplify and measure the tiny electrical impulses of nerves. By amplifying some nerve impulses by a factor of 5,000, he obtained more accurate results about electrical potential charges than had previously been obtained. His studies of nerve impulses from single sensory nerve endings and, later, motor nerve fibers, helped to explain physical sensation and muscular control. Sensory nerves convey impulses from the sense organs to the brain and central nervous system; motor nerves carry impulses from the brain and central nervous system to the tissues of the body.

Adrian's research demonstrated how information is conveyed around the nervous system, and that there is only one type of nervous impulse. He also researched the nervous systems of various animals, the mechanisms of their sensory receptors, and the storage of sensory information in their central nervous systems. He discovered that nerve impulses in response to sensory stimuli, although constant in intensity, decrease in frequency as stimulation continues.

In 1934, Adrian turned to investigating the electrical activity of the brain. He developed electroencephalography (EEG), a process to measure electrical impulses in the brain. This process became of great importance in the study of epilepsy, cerebral lesions, and other brain disorders.

Adrian was born in London. He studied medicine at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he later became master. He became the first Baron Adrian in 1955. Between 1957 and 1975, he was vice-chancellor, and then chancellor, of Cambridge University.

2) Sherrington, Sir Charles Scott (1861-1952), a British scientist, shared the 1932 Nobel Prize for physiology and medicine with Edgar D. Adrian. His researches contributed greatly to understanding how the nerves coordinate and control body functions. He wrote The Integrative Action of the Nervous System (1906). This book explained the plan of the brain and spinal cord, based on numerous reflex pathways by which the activities of the body are adjusted to the environment. Sherrington was born in London.


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