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Eur Neurol. 2009;61(5):311-4. doi: 10.1159/000206858. Epub 2009 Mar 17.

Marie-Jean-Pierre Flourens (1794-1867) and cortical localization.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Hull Royal Infirmary, Hull, UK.


The child prodigy Marie-Jean-Pierre Flourens received his medical degree at Montpellier when aged 19. As a young promising physician Flourens was asked to investigate Gall's controversial views on cerebral localization. To test Gall's assertions, Flourens developed ablation as a procedure to explore the workings of the brain. By removing anatomically defined areas of the brain of an animal and watching its behaviour, he thought he might localize certain functions. Flourens did not favour the idea of cerebral localization and concluded that the brain functioned as a whole and thus arose the concept of 'cerebral equipotentiality'. This culminated in his 1824 Recherches expérimentales sur les propriétés et les fonctions du système nerveux. His techniques were, however, crude and imperfect, and his experiments were mainly on birds. Much criticism and debate ensued. A gifted man, Flourens also advanced the physiology of the vestibular apparatus and described the anaesthetic properties of ether.

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