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From The Archives

Alastair Compston
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/awu055 1266-1271 First published online: 14 March 2014

Prefrontal leucotomy: a neuro-anatomical report by A. Meyer, E. Beck and T. McLardy. (From the Teaching and Research Laboratory, Maudsley Hospital) Brain 1947; 70: 18–49; with A study of efferent connexions of the frontal lobe in the human brain after leucotomy. By Margaret Meyer. (From the Department of Neuropathology, Institute of Psychiatry, Maudsley Hospital, London, and the Department of Human Anatomy, University of Oxford) Brain 1949; 72: 265–96.

Alfred Meyer (1895–1990) was born and educated in Krefeld, Germany. After considering careers in music and law before serving on the western front in the Great War, he turned to medicine on demobilization. Influenced initially by (Ludwig) Aschoff (1866–1942), Meyer subsequently studied pathology in Munich with (Walther) Spielmeyer (1879–1935) and (Hugo) Spatz (1888–1969); but, being Jewish, decided to leave Germany in 1933 for London where he was welcomed at the Maudsley Hospital by (Edward) Mapother (1881–1940) and (Frederick) Golla (1878–1968). His work with Elizabeth Beck (nk) culminated in the monograph on Prefrontal leucotomy and related operations: anatomical aspects of success and failure (1954). Later Meyer made contributions to the clinical science of temporal lobectomy for the treatment of epilepsy being developed by Murray Falconer (1910–77) at the Maudsley Hospital. In retirement he wrote a scholarly work on Historical aspects of cerebral anatomy (1971), and papers on Dr Thomas Willis (1621–75) with Raymond Hierons (1921–2001).

Professor Meyer and colleagues have previously reported psychiatric and therapeutic results in a series of patients undergoing prefrontal leucotomy; now, they describe the neuropathological findings in 6 of the 10 original cases. That so much material is available does not speak well of the procedure. Not only are there very few studies of anatomical changes that follow lesions of the frontal white matter in man, but the unpredictable location and extent of secondary degeneration make …

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