By Ally Grubman
Today, the class went to visit Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise in the 20th arrondissement. This was an incredibly interesting and out-of-the-ordinary experience. We walked from the Accent Center (where we have our classes) to the cemetery. There, we strolled through the beautiful and intricate burial grounds of the people buried there.
In regards to our classes, many notable neuroscientists were buried at Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise. Some of these included Jean Pierre Flourens, a pioneer in psychology and neuroscience. One of his major contributions was within the sphere of cerebral localizations and brain functionality (Pearce, 2009). Mainly, he was known for the development and use of ablation methods to see if the different parts of the brain had different functions. Ablation is a technique done by burning, freezing, or removing tissue (in Flourens’s case, removing) in order to kill or get rid of it. He used this to investigate previous assertions from Franz Gall. Gall concluded through his research that the brain had distinct and specific functions. Flourens, however, found that this was not the case, and instead perceived that the brain worked as a whole, coining the term “cerebral equipotentiality” (Pearce, 2009).
This was novel at the time (the early to mid-1800s) and helped lay the groundwork for future neuroscientists. Being where he was buried and learning about his life helped put into perspective how far we have come since then. His discoveries were groundbreaking at the time and impressive, even today.
Since his research, the neuroscience community has come a long way, but even so, there is still a lot about the brain structure-function relationship that is unknown to us. Both our 402W and neuroethics classes give us an understanding and inside look into the quickly-developing field of neuroscience. In the classes, we discuss new research being presented and upcoming and previous ethical questions asked. This relates directly to the life and career of Jean Piette Flourens as a psychologist and neuroscientist. He made strides in his area, despite being ridiculed for it, and made advancements that seemed impossible at the time. This is something that continues to happen today with new research and medical breakthroughs always around the corner. His research was highly criticized at first, which it seems all of the new research has (something that we have learned so far in neuroethics). Having the chance to see his burial site and learn about his life was an amazing and eye-opening opportunity!
Pearce, J. M. S. (2009, March 17). Marie-Jean-Pierre Flourens (1794–1867) and cortical localization. European Neurology, 311-314. https://doi.org/10.1159/000206858.