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Cerebellum. 2018 Aug;17(4):461-464. doi: 10.1007/s12311-018-0932-7.

Vincenzo Malacarne (1744-1816) and the First Description of the Human Cerebellum.

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Museum of Pathological Anatomy, University Museums Centre, University of Padua, Padua, Italy.
University Picardie Jules Verne, Amiens, France.
University of Turin, Turin, Italy.
Department of Nervous System and Behaviour Sciences, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy.
Department of Cardiac, Thoracic and Vascular Sciences, University of Padua, Padua, Italy.


Vincenzo Malacarne, professor of medicine, surgery, and obstetrics in Turin, Pavia, and Padua, Italy, represented a perfect example of an eighteenth century "letterato", combining interests in humanities, sciences, and politics, embodying the ideal of an encyclopedic and universal culture. He made important contributions in anatomy and surgery, teratology, obstetrics, neurology, and history of medicine, adopting a interdisciplinary approach based on the correlation between anatomy, surgery, and clinics. He deserves a special place in the history of neurology because of the first complete description of the human cerebellum. He quantified the units of the cerebellar internal structures, the lamellae being numbered for a systematic description of the human cerebellum. He thought the mental faculties depended on their number, considering a relation between the number of cerebellar lamellae and the expression of intellectual faculties. In this way, he made first statistics on human faculties. He advanced the concept that the number of cerebellar folia was influenced by the environment, thus providing the first nature-nurture hypothesis made on the basis of observations, and the concept of neuroplasticity in the scientific literature. Finally, he also contributed to the emergence of a new science, namely electrophysiology, because he laid down experimental foundations of a project on the recording of brain electricity, comparing the structure of the human brain with Volta's galvanic pillar.


Cerebellum; History of medicine; History of neurology; Vincenzo Malacarne


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