Otto Soltmann's pioneering work of 1876 on stimulation and development of the motor cortex, and recovery after brain damage

Stanley FINGER1, Timothy BEYER1, and Peter J. KOEHLER2
1St. Louis, Missouri 63130 USA; and 2Heerlen, The Netherlands

In 1870, Fritsch and Hitzig employed electrical stimulation and ablation techniques to show that the dog has a motor cortex. In a relatively overlooked chapter published six years later, Otto Soltmann, a pediatrician in Breslau with a strong interest in basic science, described the functional development of the motor cortex, and argued that it must play a role in willed movement. Soltmann became the first experimenter to show when the dog's motor cortex becomes electrically excitable (at about 10 days in dogs), and how the contralateral forepaw area appears prior to the hindpaw or face. He also studied the effects of ablating the cortical motor regions, and encountered a remarkable degree of sparing of function in those animals operated upon as newborns, but not in older dogs. He turned to the theory of vicariation or "functional take-over" to explain the relative absence of deficits in his young operated animals, and specifically mentioned how only dogs with unilateral lesions continued to show bilateral movements to remaining (opposite) motor cortex stimulation. Soltmann concluded with parallels between his experimental results and clinical observations made on children with early brain damage.


Session IV -- Mid to Late 19th Century
Monday, 12 June 2000, 4:30 - 5:00 pm

Fifth Annual Meeting of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN)

Providence, Rhode Island, USA

Fifth Annual Meeting of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN)

Providence, Rhode Island, USA