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Localization and Its DiscontentsA Genealogy of Psychoanalysis and the Neuro Disciplines$
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Katja Guenther

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226288208

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226288345.001.0001

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In the Morgue

In the Morgue

Theodor Meynert, Pathological Anatomy, and the Social Structure of Dissection

Chapter:
(p.13) Chapter One In the Morgue
Source:
Localization and Its Discontents
Author(s):

Katja Guenther

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226288345.003.0001

This chapter shows how Theodor Meynert's appeal to a version of reflex physiology allowed him to participate in the new enthusiasm for pathological anatomy in Vienna medicine, which had risen to prominence in the political and cultural conditions created by the failure of the 1848 revolutions. To be able to apply the reflex (which previously had been restricted to spinal action) to the localization project (which took as its object the brain), Meynert revised the model to make it appropriate for describing higher functions. Drawing on the language of association psychology, Meynert argued that between the afferent sensory arc and the efferent motor arc, there existed an “association system,” which explained the complexity and “plasticity” of brain function. A modified reflex physiology thus emerged as a necessary resource for the localization project. At the same time, the appeal to associationism helped Meynert address a problem resulting from the organization of the Vienna General Hospital. Because pathological anatomy was centralized there, Meynert had to rely on his clinical colleagues for the description of symptoms that he would correlate with anatomical findings. Meynert's psychologization of the reflex paradigm helped facilitate the communication between somatically-inclined pathological anatomists and psychologically-oriented psychiatrists.

Keywords:   Theodor Meynert, Vienna, pathological anatomy, reflex, Rokitansky, association psychology, localization, revolutions of 1848, neuropsychiatry

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