06 August 2009

International Society for the History of the Neurosciences

Interview with Professor Marjorie Perlman Lorch, President of the International Society for the History of Neuroscience

Marjorie Lorch: I am very honoured to be the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences President for 2009-10.

Stephen Casper: Tell us a bit more about the Society.

ML: It was founded in 1995 with the first meeting in Montreal. The annual meeting alternates between North America and Europe to encourage attendants from around the world. The group has grown over the years and has a thriving journal which comes out four times a year called the Journal of the History of the Neurosciences: Basic and Clinical Perspectives.

SC: That’s a long title. Why does it specify basic and clinical perspectives?

ML: I think it reflects something very special about both the journal and the Society. We gather people who come to the study of the history of the neurosciences from many different academic backgrounds and disciplines, having diverse research agendas. I think this Society is unique in providing a forum which encompasses neurologists, neurosurgeons, therapists, cognitive scientists, linguists, historians, and philosophers to share their common interest in the study of the nervous system. There is a positive atmosphere at the meetings, a real interest in hearing about scholarship being carried out using methods or analytical frameworks which may be very different from one’s own.

SC: Yes, I have been to several meetings and have found them very stimulating.

ML: I think the most amazing thing is that people who have met each other at the Society’s meetings have gone on to develop international and interdisciplinary research collaborations which have led to presentations and journal articles of original scholarship.

SC: Tell us about your plans for the coming year.

ML: We will hold the 15th annual meeting the Society in Paris, France from June 15-19 2010. Our hosts will be Dr. Jean-Gaël Barbara (Chair of local organising committee) in collaboration with the Ecole Normale Supérieure d’Ulm with Prof. Claude Debru. There is a growing body of French researchers interested in this area. They have a very active Club d’Histoire des Neurosciences, and a community of historians of the neurosciences within the national Société des Neurosciences. This meeting will be an opportunity for the French scholars to network with the larger international community in the Society.

SC: Will there be any special features of this meeting?

ML: Paris has a rich history of research in the neurosciences. During the meeting we will take the opportunity to visit the old Ecole de médecine, the old Anatomical amphitheatre, and the Musée Dupuytren which is the home of Broca’s famous Leborgne brain in the Cloître des Cordeliers. We will also go to the Salpêtrière Hospital to see the Charcot library and listen to an organ recital in the hospital chapel by Bernard Lechevalier. The Society Banquet will be held at the Maison de l’Amérique Latine, which was Charcot’s former Paris residence in the boulevard Saint-Germain.

SC: It sounds like it will be a full schedule. How can people find out more about the meeting and submitting an abstract?

ML: The meeting announcement is posted on our website www.ishn.org and the call for papers will be sent out in the autumn. The programme committee will consider abstracts on any topic broadly related to the history of basic, clinical or behavioral neurosciences including those drawing on individual perspectives, events or technologies from any time period and any part of the world. Anyone interested in finding out more can of course contact me directly at m.lorch@bbk.ac.uk

SC: It sounds like the Paris meeting will be a great success.

Dr. Marjorie Perlman Lorch is Professor of Neurolinguistics at Birkbeck, University of London. She has carried out clinical research at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Queen Square London and at the Aphasia Research Center of the Veterans Administration Boston Medical Center where she received her PhD in 1985. Details of her research activities and publications can be obtained from her website.

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