Brains by Purves, Dale

By Purves, Dale

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5). 5 A) John Eccles (center) with his two protégés, Kuffler (on the left) and Katz, in Sydney in 1941. B) The same trio at a meeting at Oxford in 1972 (Eccles is on the right). (Courtesy of Marion Hunt) Eccles had long thought that synaptic transmission depended on the direct passage of electrical current from the axonal endings to target cells, although circumstantial evidence already suggested that axon endings released a chemical transmitter agent. This indirect evidence for chemical transmission came largely from the physiological and biochemical studies of John Langley at Cambridge and his student Henry Dale working on the peripheral autonomic nervous system early in the twentieth century, and from Otto Loewi working on the neural control of heart muscle in the 1920s.

He had come in 1937 after completing medical training in Hungary, and had been working in the pathology department of the Medical School in Sydney. Kuffler met Eccles by chance on the tennis court. During their conversations, he expressed openness to doing something more interesting than his work in pathology, and Eccles eventually invited him to join his lab as a fellow. 5). 5 A) John Eccles (center) with his two protégés, Kuffler (on the left) and Katz, in Sydney in 1941. B) The same trio at a meeting at Oxford in 1972 (Eccles is on the right).

For the first time in years, I worked hard not because I had to, but because I wanted to. The approaches to the brain and neural function that Kuffler and his young faculty were spearheading when I was a student in 1961 had flowered by the time I returned as a fellow in 1968. During the first half the twentieth century, the major goals in neuroscience had been reasonably clear: to determine how action potentials work, and to understand how information is conveyed from one nerve cell to another at synapses.

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