Landmark Achievements

In 1883 Sir David Drummond published the authoritative book on Diseases of the Brain and Spinal Cord. He was also one of the two medical members of the Royal Commission (1924-26) on Lunacy and Mental Disorder which recommended outpatient clinics be opened and aftercare services developed to enable community treatment.

Professor Frederick Nattrass

In 1931 Professor Frederick Nattrass authored the popular textbook The Commoner Nervous Diseases. In 1932 he and his Newcastle colleague George Hall (1879-1955) were among the 16 founding members of the Association of British Neurologists.

In 1935 Alfred Pattison, who established Neurosurgery in Newcastle, was the first person to implant radon-222 seeds for interstitial radiotherapy of pituitary basophilism (Cushing’s Disease).

In 1939 George Rowbotham introduced hypothermia in the treatment of head injuries and the use of cryosurgery in intracranial procedures. His book Acute Injuries of the Head (1942) ran to five editions, and his later book Pictorial Introduction to Neurological Surgery (1953) with Douglas Hammersley was an important training manual.

In 1947 William Catton and Edmond Burtt discovered that the multiple lens system of the insect eye had greater resolving power than a single lens eye and offered an electrophysiological explanation.

The Thousand Family Study was initiated in Newcastle in 1947. Originally designed to investigate illness in the first year of life in a cohort of 1142 children born in Newcastle between 1 May and 30 June 1947, this cohort has continued to be studied up to the present. From the extensive psychosocial data collected during the first five years of life it has been possible to demonstrate a significant effect of family disadvantage in predisposing an individual to increased risk of major depression in adulthood (published in 1999). This was one of the first longitudinal studies to clearly establish early psychosocial factors in adult psychiatric health.

During the 1950s and 60s Professor John Walton’s phenotypic classification of muscle disease laid the foundation for later studies in molecular genetics.

From the mid-1950s onwards, Gordon Gryspeerdt developed myelographic techniques which became standard practice throughout the world and was a founder member of the European Society for Neuroradiologists.

Sir Martin Roth FRS

Professor Sir Martin Roth FRS (1917-2006) founded two main areas of research: psychogeriatrics and the phenotypic characterisation of affective disorders. Many of the major concepts in psychogeriatrics, especially in dementia, were conceived in Newcastle.

Professor Sir Martin Roth FRS, Bernard Tomlinson and Garry Blessed devised the first scales for measuring dementia and demonstrated the quantitative relationship between cognitive levels and extent of brain damage, including expression of Alzheimer’s abnormal proteins.

During the 1970s Professor John (‘Hank’) Hankinson (1919-2007) collaborated with Alan McComas and Peter Wilson to make real time electrophysiological recordings using steel electrodes from the human brain in conscious patients to assist the functional mapping of the brain prior to surgery. He also developed the ventricular puncture method for relief of intracranial pressure.

Between 1959 and 1965 Professor Henry Miller (1913-1976) coordinated the first survey of multiple sclerosis in the UK.

In 1964 David Kay and Professor Sir Martin Roth published two seminal papers in the British Journal of Psychiatry, which indicated that dementia was a major epidemiological entity in the elderly.

In 1966 and 1968 Professor Sir Bernard Tomlinson, Garry Blessed and Professor Sir Martin Roth published landmark papers in Nature and British Journal of Psychiatry that demonstrate the relationship between Alzheimer’s-type neurofibrillary tangles and senile plaques and measures of dementia, taking Alzheimer’s disease from a rare cause of dementia affecting the under 65s, to the commonest cause of dementia worldwide.
In 1971 Alan McComas published a landmark paper describing the use of electrophysiological methods to estimate the number of motor units in a human muscle.

In 1972 Professor Sir Martin Roth, Kurt Schapira, Roger Garside, Alan Kerr and Clair Gurney published a series of landmark papers in the British Journal of Psychiatry on the classification of affective disorders and the relationship between anxiety and depressive illnesses, using detailed information gained from structured interviews.

In 1973 Professor Walter (‘Wally’) Bradley published seminal studies on the abnormalities of peripheral nerves in murine models of muscular dystrophy.

In the mid-1970s Professor Roger Perry developed the brain bank (later known as the ‘brain tissue resource’) which is now one of the world’s most well characterised brain banks on neurodegenerative diseases and has led to many discoveries in relation to neurodegenerative diseases.

Between 1976-78 Elaine Perry, Robert Perry, Professor Sir Bernard Tomlinson and Garry Blessed published a series of landmark papers that established the cholinergic hypothesis of dementia. They showed that the brain’s ability to produce acetylcholine is severely reduced in Alzheimer patients and that there is a robust relationship between impaired cognitive deficit in Alzheimer’s disease, plaque formation and cortical cholinergic deficit.
In 1981 Professor Israel (‘Issy’) Kolvin publishes in his influential book, Help Starts Here. The Maladjusted Child in the Ordinary School. This reports the first controlled trial of psychological treatment of children in schools, and proved that treatment was effective in ameliorating emotional and behavioural difficulties.

In 1981 Bernard Tomlinson and colleagues publish two influential papers showing that as well as cholinergic deficit the transmitter noradrenaline is also deficient in the brains of Alzheimer patients.

In 1990 research in Newcastle indicated that dementia with Lewy Body, previously considered to be rare and unimportant, was contributing to a significant proportion of late-life dementia pathology.

In 1995 the first International Workshop of the Consortium on Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB) is held in Newcastle. The consensus guidelines for the clinical and pathologic diagnosis of DLB published in Neurology the following year becomes a highly cited paper.

In 2000 Professor Douglas Turkington and colleagues report the outcome of cognitive behavioural interventions for treatment of psychoses. This has become the most widely used cognitive intervention for schizophrenia.

In 2006 research published in Nature Genetics describes the changes to mitochondrial DNA in the substantia nigra of aged and Parkinson’s disease patients, suggesting DNA deletions may be important in neuronal loss.

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