Moshe Abeles (2001) Founders of Neuropsychology - who is Ignored?. Psycoloquy: 12(026) Lashley Hebb (20)

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PSYCOLOQUY (ISSN 1055-0143) is sponsored by the American Psychological Association (APA).
Psycoloquy 12(026): Founders of Neuropsychology - who is Ignored?

Book Review of Orbach on Lashley-Hebb

Moshe Abeles
Dept. of Physiology, and The Interdisciplinary Center for Neural
The Hebrew University
Jerusalem, Israel.


The book has two parts. Part I deals with the personal relations between Lashley and Hebb, with Lashley's refusal to take part in Hebb's book, with issues of priority on ideas like reverberations, cell assemblies and modifiable synapses. This part of the book attempts to explain why is it that so much credit is given to Hebb and too little to Lashley. Part II is a collection of papers of Lashley some of which were not published anywhere else. Part I will be most important for those interested in history and sociology of science and of Neuropsychology in particular. Part II is a treasure for anybody interested in mechanisms for higher brain functions.


Neuropsychology, history of science, cell assembly, reverberation, modifiable synapses.
1. Lashley was certainly the founding father of modern neuropsychology. I always found his studies on localization (or rather the absence of localization) of memory and mechanisms of acquired behavior breathtaking. Yet most of the credit for founding the field are given to his student Hebb. The concept of "cell-assembly" and "Hebb's rule" for synaptic plasticity are the most prominent examples. Why is this so? The first part of the book analyzes the history of their ideas and personal relationship in an attempt to explain this situation. It contains new evidence that sheds light on the relations between the two (Hebb invited Lashley to co-author his famous book "The organization of behavior: a neuropsychological study" but Lashley refused) and issues on priority of ideas (was Lashley the first to realize the importance of Lorente de No's idea on reverberations in neural circuits?) I admit that I find these historiosophic questions less exciting then the actual scientific work of the two. In particular I am still fascinated by Lashley's boldness and direct approach: - If the memory engram is located in a particular region of the brain - let us remove brain pieces until we find a place that erases memory. - If information is processed via long cortico-cortical connections - let us sever these by multiple cuts and find the deficit. - If the "mass action" of brain is generated by ephaptic electric fields - let us lay gold foils over the cortex and disrupt these fields.

2. To this very day, I find reading Lashley's work exciting and thought provoking much more than most current publications. Two thirds of Orbach's book are devoted to a collection of Lashley's works, including some hitherto unpublished finds. This is a real treasure!


Orbach, Jack (1998) The Neuropsychological Theories of Lashley and Hebb. MD: University Press of America.

Orbach, J. (1999) Precis of: The Neuropsychological Theories of Lashley and Hebb. PSYCOLOQUY 10(029) psyc.99.10.029.lashley-hebb.1.orbach

Volume: 12 (next, prev) Issue: 026 (next, prev) Article: 20 (next prev first) Alternate versions: ASCII Summary