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John Hughlings Jackson

john hughlings jackson, john hughlings jackson epilepsy
John Hughlings Jackson, FRS 4 April 1835 – 7 October 1911 was an English neurologist He is best known for his research on epilepsy


  • 1 Biography
  • 2 Science and research
    • 21 Methodology
  • 3 Contributions
  • 4 References
  • 5 External links


He was born at Providence Green, Green Hammerton, near Harrogate, Yorkshire, the youngest son of Samuel Jackson, a brewer and yeoman who owned and farmed his land, and Sarah Jackson née Hughlings, the daughter of a Welsh revenue collector His mother died just over a year after giving birth to him He had three brothers and a sister; his brothers emigrated to New Zealand and his sister married a physician1 He was educated at Tadcaster, Yorkshire and Nailsworth, Gloucestershire before attending the York Medical and Surgical School After qualifying at St Barts in 1856 he became house physician to the York Dispensary

In 1859 he returned to London to work at the Metropolitan Free Hospital and the London Hospital In 1862 he was appointed Assistant Physician, later 1869 full Physician at the National Hospital for Paralysis and Epilepsy located in Queen Square, London now the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery as well as Physician 1874 at the London Hospital During this period he established his reputation as a neurologist He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1878

Jackson died in London on 7 October 1911 and was buried in Highgate cemetery He was an atheist23 The Hull York Medical School building at the University of York is named in his honour

Science and researchedit

John Hughlings Jackson by Lance Calkin, 1895

Jackson was an innovative thinker and a prolific and lucid, if sometimes repetitive, writer Though his range of interests was wide, he is best remembered for his seminal contributions to the diagnosis and understanding of epilepsy in all its forms and complexities45 His name is attached eponymously to the characteristic "march" The Jacksonian March of symptoms in focal motor seizures 6 and to the so-called "dreamy state" of psychomotor seizures of temporal lobe origin7 His papers on the latter variety of epilepsy have seldom been bettered in their descriptive clinical detail or in their analysis of the relationship of psychomotor epilepsy to various patterns of pathological automatism and other mental and behavioural disorders

Jackson also did research on aphasia, noting that some aphasic children were able to sing, even though they had lost the power of ordinary speech89

In his youth Jackson had been interested in conceptual issues and it is believed that in 1859 he contemplated the idea of abandoning medicine for philosophy10 Thus, an important part of his work concerned the evolutionary organization of the nervous system for which he proposed three levels: a lower, a middle,11 and a higher At the lowest level, movements were to be represented in their least complex form; such centres lie in the medulla and spinal cord The middle level consists of the so-called motor area of the cortex, and the highest motor levels are found in the prefrontal area

The higher centres inhibited the lower ones and hence lesions thereat caused ‘negative’ symptoms due to an absence of function ‘Positive’ symptoms were caused by the functional release of the lower centres This process Jackson called ‘dissolution’, a term he borrowed from Herbert Spencer12 The ‘positive-negative’ distinction he took from Sir John Reynolds13

Continental psychiatrists and psychologists eg Ribot, Janet, Freud, Ey have been more influenced by Jackson’s theoretical ideas than their British counterparts14 During the 1980s, the ‘positive-negative’ distinction was introduced in relation to the symptoms of schizophrenia15

He was one of only a few physicians to have delivered the Goulstonian 1869, Croonian 1884 and Lumleian 1890 lectures to the Royal College of Physicians 16 He also delivered the 1872 Hunterian Oration to the Hunterian Society


Jackson could not use modern sophisticated neuro-investigative technology it had not been invented, but had to rely upon his own powers of clinical observation, deductive logic and autopsy data17 Some of his eminent successors in the field of British neurology have been critical of many of his theories and concepts; but as Sir Francis Walshe remarked of his work in 1943, " when all that is obsolete or irrelevant is discarded there remains a rich treasure of physiological insight we cannot afford to ignore"

In Otfrid Foerster's research on the motor cortex, he cites exclusively Hughlings Jackson for the initial discovery although without evidence of the brain as the spring of neurological motor signalling18


Together with his friends Sir David Ferrier and Sir James Crichton-Browne, two eminent neuropsychiatrists of his time, Jackson was one of the founders of the important Brain journal, which was dedicated to the interaction between experimental and clinical neurology still being published today Its inaugural issue was published in 1878

In 1892, Jackson was one of the founding members of the National Society for the Employment of Epileptics now the National Society for Epilepsy, along with Sir William Gowers and Sir David Ferrier

Oliver Sacks repeatedly cited Jackson as an inspiration in his neurologic work


  1. ^ Critchley, Macdonald; Critchley, Eileen A 1998 John Hughlings Jackson : Father of English Neurology PDF Oxford University Press pp 7–8 Retrieved 17 May 2013 
  2. ^ http://wwwnndbcom/people/020/000204405/
  3. ^ Siegman, Aron Wolfe, and Stanley Feldstein Nonverbal Behavior and Communication Hillsdale, NJ: L Erlbaum Associates, 1978 Print
  4. ^ Janković, SM; Sokić, DV; Lević, Z; Susić, V "Dr John Hughlings Jackson" Srp Arh Celok Lek 125: 381–6 PMID 9480576 
  5. ^ Balcells Riba, M 1999 "Contribution of John Hughlings Jackson to the understanding of epilepsy" Neurología 14 1: 23–28 PMID 10079688 He systematized what we today know as complex partial crisis, establishing the link between the function of the temporal lobe and the sensorial auras, automatism's, déjà-vu and jamais vu phenomena 
  6. ^ York, George K; Steinberg, David A 2011 "Hughlings Jackson's neurological ideas" Brain : a journal of neurology 134 Pt 10: 3106–3113 doi:101093/brain/awr219 Lay summary By observing the march of epileptic seizures he developed the idea of somatotopic representation 
  7. ^ Lardreau, Esther 2011 "An approach to nineteenth-century medical lexicon: the term "dreamy state"" Journal of the history of the neurosciences 20 1: 34–41 doi:101080/09647041003740937 Lay summary Hughlings-Jackson coined the concept of dreamy state: According to him, one of the sensations of a "dreamy state" was an odd feeling of recognition and familiarity, often called "deja vu" A clear sense of strangeness could also be experienced in the "dreamy state" "jamais vu" 
  8. ^ Johnson, Julene K; Graziano, Amy B 2015 "Some early cases of aphasia and the capacity to sing" Progress in brain research 216: 73–89 Lay summary The observation that some patients with aphasia and limited speech output were able to sing the texts of songs inspired scholars to examine the relationship between music and language Early ideas about the capacity to sing were provided by well-known neurologists, such as John Hughlings Jackson and Adolf Kussmaul 
  9. ^ Lorch, Marjorie Perlman; Greenblatt, Samuel H 2015 "Singing by speechless aphasic children: Victorian medical observations" Progress in brain research 216: 53–72 doi:101016/bspbr201411003 PMID 25684285 Lay summary One notable publication was of two cases of children briefly observed by John Hughlings Jackson 1835-1911 in 1871 These children were speechless but could produce some musical expression 
  10. ^ James Taylor, ‘Jackson, John Hughlings 1835–1911’, rev Walton of Detchant, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  11. ^ Phillips, C G 1973 "Proceedings: Hughlings Jackson Lecture Cortical localization and "sensori motor processes" at the "middle level" in primates" Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine 66 10: 987–1002 PMC 1645607  PMID 4202444 
  12. ^ Berrios, G E 2001 "The factors of insanities: J Hughlings Jackson Classic Text No 47" History of Psychiatry 12 47 Pt 3: 353–73 doi:101177/0957154x0101204705 PMID 11954572 
  13. ^ Berrios, G E 1985 "Positive and negative symptoms and Jackson A conceptual history" Archives of General Psychiatry 42 1: 95–7 doi:101001/archpsyc198501790240097011 PMID 3881095 
  14. ^ Berrios G E 1977 Henri Ey, Jackson et les idées obsédantes L'Evolution Psychiatrique 42: 685–699
  15. ^ Berrios, G E 1991 "Positive and Negative Signals: A Conceptual History" Negative Versus Positive Schizophrenia p 8 doi:101007/978-3-642-76841-5_2 ISBN 978-3-642-76843-9 
  16. ^ Hughesnet Internet | Satellite Internet Deals | 1-855-267-3692permanent dead link Novoseekcom Retrieved on 29 May 2014
  17. ^ Eadie, MJ 1990 "The evolution of J Hughlings Jackson's thought on epilepsy" Clinical and Experimental Neurology 27: 29–41 Lay summary By 1870, and within 5 or 6 years of his beginning to analyse the clinical phenomena of epilepsy and to correlate them with autopsy data, the 35-year-old John Hughlings Jackson had come to a view of the nature of epilepsy that was radically different from that of his contemporaries 
  18. ^ Foerster, O 1936 "The Motor Cortex in Man in the Light of Hughlings Jackson's Doctrines" Brain 59 2: 135–159 doi:101093/brain/592135 

External linksedit

  • Biography
  • 100 Years of Brain Journal
  • John Hughlings Jackson at Find a Grave
  • Photo from Encyclopædia Britannica
  • Hughlings Jackson's documents in the Queen Square Archive

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