Penn Medicine Neuroscience Center

About the Center

About the Penn Medicine Neuroscience Center


A Century of Neuroscience Patient Care Accomplishments at Penn



1900 - 1930

  • Charles Harrison Frazier (Surgery/Neurosurgery)
    • Early 1900s (1908-1919) - helped pioneer new discipline of neurosurgery (with Harvey Cushing at Johns Hopkins)
    • 1920 - first reported brachytherapy for parenchymal brain tumors
  • Charles K. Mills (Neurology)
    • Used clinicopathological method to localize function within the nervous system, mostly within the brain but also cerebellar, spinal, and peripheral aspects
    • 1900 - described unilateral ascending paralysis due to degeneration of pyramidal tract (Mills Disease)
    • 1906 - described unilateral descending paralysis
    • 1908 - described macular hemianopsia
    • 1912 - described the syndrome of occlusion of the superior cerebellar artery
  • William G. Spiller (Neurology)
    • Focus on natural history of neurological diseases
    • 1908 - first to postulate the  medullary syndrome resulting from anterior spinal artery occlusion
    • 1902 - retroresection of the Gasserian (trigeminal) ganglion to treat trigeminal neuralgia or tic douloureaux (with Charles Harrison Frazier)
    • 1911-12 - first bilateral anterolateral spinal cordotomy for relief of intractable pain in lower body (with Edward Martin and, later, C. H. Frazier who perfected the technique in 1920)
  • Temple Fay (Surgery/Neurosurgery)
    • 1927 - devised the first lighted retractor, which facilitated operative  exposure beneath  structural shelves and in deep recesses


1930 - 1960

  • Oscar V. Batson (Anatomy)
    • 1930s - discovered function of the vertebral veins in draining  blood from the head and neck
  • Detlev W. Bronk (Johnson Foundation for Medical Physics)
    • 1930s - discovered property of trans-synaptic excitation and the prolonged effect of previous activity
  • Ragnar Granit and Haldan Keffer Hartline (Johnson Foundation for Medical Physics)
    • first individuals associated with Penn to win a Nobel Prize (1967), though not here when they won it - “for their discoveries concerning the primary physiological and chemical visual processes in the eye.”)
    • 1930s - Granit demonstrated that neural factors (light-sensitive cones) determine the changes in the retina’s sensitivity in adapting to light or darkness
    • 1930s - Hartline demonstrated that while individual nerve cells act independently, it is the integrated action of all units of the visual system that produce vision
  • Robert D. Dripps (Anesthesia)
    • 1954 - demonstrated that spinal anesthesia did not produce permanent neurological damage - showed that use of a smaller needle reduced incidence of temporary headaches and auditory and ocular difficulties (with Leroy Vandam)
  • John C. Lilly (Johnson Foundation for Medical Physics)
    • Late 1940s - developed a 25-channel television-like display device to measure brain activity
  • Seymour Kety and Carl Schmidt (Physiology)
    • 1948 - published first accurate values for cerebral blood flow, oxygen consumption, glucose metabolism, and cerebrovascular resistance in humans
  • Eugene Spitz and Frank Nulsen (Pediatric Neurosurgery)
    • 1949 - made milestone contribution to treatment of hydrocephalus by constructing a valve enabling ventricular fluid to pass through a shunt to the venous system without causing backflow of blood.
  • Robert Armand Groff (Surgery/Neurosurgery)
    • first to describe the syndrome of lesser wing ridge meningiomas (with Bernard J. Alpers)


1960-1990

  • Aaron T. Beck (Psychiatry)
    • Early 1960s - developed Cognitive Therapy as short-term psychotherapy to correct depressive patients’ erroneous thinking
  • David A. Kuhl (Radiology)
    • 1960s - conceived of and constructed a device that represented the first true computed axial tomographic (CAT) imaging system. With other members of the faculty, he developed the procedure known as single photon emission computed  tomography (SPECT), as well as the principles of PET.
    • 1966-1976 - demonstrated that emission computed tomography was useful in improving diagnosis and characterization of focal alterations in blood brain barrier and cerebral spinal distributions
    • 1975 - the first absolute measurement of local cerebral blood volume by emission computed tomography in animals and man
    • 1976 - the first determination in man of absolute values of local cerebral glucose utilization by means of emission computed tomography and 18-F- fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG)
    • confirmed with PET that local alterations in cerebral biochemistry precede local alterations in structure and thus can be early evidence of disease in cerebral disorders.
  • David A. Kuhl, Abass Aalavi, and Martin Reivich (Radiology)
    • 1970s - administered first doses of fluorine-18 fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) to health volunteers at Penn and acquired images of the human brain through positron emission tomography  (PET)
  • John Paul Brady and Albert J. Stunkard (Psychiatry)
    • Late 1970s - helped pioneer the new field of behavioral medicine (e.g., weight and eating disorders, sleep disorders, etc.)


1990-Present

  • Kenneth H. Fischbeck (Neurology)
    • 1991 - discovered genes for Kennedy’s disease, a disorder marked by progressive muscle and bulbar atrophy
    • 1991 - discovered genes for Charcot-Tooth-Marie disorder, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the hands, feet, and limbs.
  • John A. Detre (Neurology) and John S. Leigh (Radiology)
    • Early 1990s - developed novel application of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that assesses tissue perfusion - the actual delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues.
  • Virginia M-Y. Lee and John Q. Trojanowski (Pathology and Laboratory Medicine)
    • 1991-2007 - demonstrated that specific misfolded brain proteins form potentially toxic lesions in Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, and ALS
  • Gregory S. Weinstein and Bert W. O’Malley, Jr. (Otorhinolaryngology)
    • 2004 - founded the world’s first TransOral Robotic Surgery (TORS) program at Penn Medicine, where they developed and researched the TORS approach for a variety of robotic surgical neck approaches for both malignant and benign tumors of the mouth, voice box, tonsil, tongue and other parts of the throat
  • John P. O'Reardon (Psychiatry)
    • 2007 - found that transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) – a non-invasive technique that excites neurons in the brain via magnetic pulses passed through the scalp – is a safe and effective, non-drug treatment with minimal side effects for patients with major depression who have tried other treatment options without benefit

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