Sculpting the brain: The corticospinal discoveries of Hans Kuypers

Marie Claire Y. de WIT, Bastiaan C. ter MEULEN, and Bart C. JACOBS
Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

“The brain is not a painting, it’s a sculpture” – the 1963 Nobel Laureate so referred to the inhibitory capacities of the nervous system, giving shape to a rudimentary excitatory brain. The corticospinal (pyramidal) tracts allow for refined movement and maintenance of posture by selective inhibition of motor neurons. The anatomy of the corticospinal tracts has been known since the early 18th century descriptions by Mistichelli and Pourfour du Petit. Major contributions to corticospinal physiology were first made in the 1960s and 1970s. Henricus (Hans) Kuypers F.R.S. (1925-1989) was one of the pioneers within this field. Kuypers divided the descending motor projections into a medial and a lateral system based on the somatotopical terminations in the intermediate zone. He made us aware of the corticospinal differences between humans and animals. Here we reflect on his career and the impact he had on today’s neuroscience. We focus on Kuypers’ role as founder of the Department of Anatomy at Erasmus University (currently Erasmus-MC) in Rotterdam, The Netherlands in 1973.

Session III
Tuesday, 5 July 2005, 2.30 - 3.00 pm

Tenth Annual Meeting of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN) and
Tenth Meeting of the European Club for the History of Neurology (ECHN)

St. Andrews, Scotland, 2005