The history of Danish neuroscience

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialResearchpeer-review

The history of Danish neuroscience starts with an account of impressive contributions made at the 17th century. Thomas Bartholin was the first Danish neuroscientist, and his disciple Nicolaus Steno became internationally one of the most prominent neuroscientists in this period. From the start, Danish neuroscience was linked to clinical disciplines. This continued in the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries with new initiatives linking basic neuroscience to clinical neurology and psychiatry in the same scientific environment. Subsequently, from the middle of the 20th century, basic neuroscience was developing rapidly within the preclinical university sector. Clinical neuroscience continued and was even reinforced during this period with important translational research and a close co-operation between basic and clinical neuroscience. To distinguish ‘history’ from ‘present time’ is not easy, as many historical events continue in present time. Therefore, we decided to consider ‘History’ as new major scientific developments in Denmark, which were launched before the end of the 20th century. With this aim, scientists mentioned will have been born, with a few exceptions, no later than the early 1960s. However, we often refer to more recent publications in documenting the developments of initiatives launched before the end of the last century. In addition, several scientists have moved to Denmark after the beginning of the present century, and they certainly are contributing to the present status of Danish neuroscience—but, again, this is not the History of Danish neuroscience.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)2893-2960
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
(1958–) and (1958–) subsequently founded the Research group ‘Sensory‐Motor Interaction’ at the Department of Health Science and Technology at Aalborg University. Their work secured a long‐lasting support from the National Research Foundation in the period 1993–2006. The work involved basic research in motor control such as reflex control of muscle contraction during walking in humans (Sinkjaer et al., 1988 ) and basic pain research in humans (Arendt‐Nielsen & Yarnitsky, 2009 ). Translational work includes the development of recording of sensory feedback used to control stimulation of muscle nerves, for example, to control ‘drop‐foot’ pathology following stroke or spinal cord injury (Lyons et al., 2002 ). Steen Andreassen is since 1998 head of the ‘Centre for Model‐based Medical Decision Support’ at the same department. This centre shall secure the optimal use of the translational research at the university in the healthcare system as well and industry, for example, MUNIN for diagnosing neuromuscular disorders (Andreassen et al., 1996 ). Lars Arendt‐Nielsen founded another centre at the department, the Centre for Neuroplasticity and Pain (CNAP), focusing on experimental tools for provocation and assessment of pain from skin, muscles and viscera in healthy volunteers and pain patients and the development of human biomarkers for the screening/profiling of new analgesics (Arendt‐Nielsen & Yarnitsky, 2009 ). He was the president of the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) in the period 2018–2020. The research presently focuses on translational studies of musculoskeletal pain bridging the gap between basic animal findings and clinical manifestations of pain (Graven‐Nielsen & Arendt‐Nielsen, 2010 ; Graven‐Nielsen & Mense, 2001 ). Thomas Sinkjær Lars Arendt‐Nielsen

Funding Information:
A major Danish contribution to neuroscience came in the 18th century from (1669–1760). Born in Odense and a great‐nephew of Nicolaus Steno, he was educated as physician in Copenhagen. Aged 27, he left Denmark in the winter of 1697 to commence a study travel in Europe. He spent his first year at the University in Leiden before moving on to Paris to stay there for the rest of his life. Like his great‐uncle, Winsløw converted to Catholicism. He had been supported by a grant from Denmark, which was lost when converting. However, he soon integrated in the French system. In 1743, he was appointed as Professor anatomicus at Jardin du Roi. He was a remarkable anatomist dealing with investigation of details of the human body's organs related with function. His textbook was published in several languages and appeared in altogether 29 editions throughout 1732–1775. He investigated muscle function in relation to torticollis, brain structures in relation to motor function and the sympathetic ganglia in relation to gastrointestinal function. In his later years, he published a book on the definite signs of death as a safeguard against ‘apparent death’, an interest he had had since his youth. An article on this topic was also translated into several languages (Maar, 1912 ; Saad, 2021 ; Snorrason, 1969 ). Jacob Benignus Winsløw Exposition Anatomique de la Structure du Corps Humain

Funding Information:
He returned to Copenhagen in May 1945. At the recommendation of Danish scientists, including August Krogh and Niels Bohr, and economically supported by the Michaelsen Foundation, the Carlsberg Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Danish state, the Institute of Neurophysiology was built in the late 1940s and inaugurated in 1952 with Buchthal as director. He was later appointed professor of neurophysiology in 1955.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Federation of European Neuroscience Societies and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

    Research areas

  • brain, Denmark, history, neuroscience, research, spinal cord

ID: 361378145