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Abstract Details

Hans Berger and the Electroencephalogram
History of Neurology
P1 - Poster Session 1 (8:00 AM-9:00 AM)

The early 20th century marks the advent of clinical neurophysiology with Hans Berger successfully recording the first human electroencephalogram (EEG) in 1924. Although the significance of his work has not been recognized until 1934 by E. Adrian and B. H. C. Matthews who confirmed his observations. Through investigating the electrical activity on subjects with skull defects, Berger was able to characterize different waveforms including alpha and beta waves. He studied EEG in patients of different ages and genders and changes in EEG recording associated with mental activity and sleep. Early recordings of absence seizures were also credited to Berger which was initially disregarded due to limitation of early recording system. By mid-1930s advancement in EEG apparatus led by Grass Company unlocked wide berth of clinical knowledge in neurophysiology.

To highlight Hans Berger, early pioneer of clinical neurophysiology, and the first to record electrical activity of the human brain non-invasively and so coining the term “electroencephalogram”.

Literature Review

Hans Berger was born in a town of Neuses in Southern Germany in 1872. He completed his doctorate at University of Jena in 1897 to initially study psychic phenomena. However, due to poor results, Berger pivoted to researching the brain’s electrical activity. His academic work began under Otto Ludwig Binswanger who was the chair of psychiatry and neurology at Jena clinic and later succeeded him in 1919. His work was met with self-doubt and skepticism from colleagues in electrophysiology. By 1938, Berger was made Professor Emeritus in Psychology and retired and later committed suicide in 1941  due to severe depression.

A literature review on Hans Berger, father of electroencephalogram, and the use of EEG allows us to  reflect on importance of clinical neurophysiology in deciphering the electrical activity of the brain in various states.

Karthik Meda, MD (Howard University Hospital Department of Neurology)
Dr. Meda has nothing to disclose.