Archive for the 'People' Category

Karl Zilles

Karl Zilles (1944–2020):
a personal tribute

by Laszlo Zaborszky

Karl Zilles, founding co-editor-in-chief of this journal [Brain Structure and Function], died on April 26, 2020. He was born in Würzburg, a small city in Bavaria with famous baroque architecture that was heavily damaged by allied bombing during WWII; he often visited his parents in this town. We first met in the mid 1970s, while I was on leave of absence from Semmelweis University Hungary, and I was working in the University of Würzburg anatomy department, located in the Koellikerstrasse, named after the famous anatomist whose hand was X-rayed by Roentgen, another famous professor at that university. We also met in many of the annual deliberations of the German Anatomical Society, of which he was president in 1996/1997. He followed the best tradition of German neuroanatomical research in the cortex, but he realized the shortcomings of Brodmann’s map (Brodmann 1909) that needed to be solved to be able to interpret the burgeoning in vivo human imaging data: (i) lack of observer-independent quantification, (ii) lack of data on the intrasulcular surface that makes up 2/3 of the cortical surface, (iii) lack of knowledge on interindividual differences, and (iv) lack of conversion from 2D to 3D …

[Keep on reading this article on Brain Structure and Function]



Psychogeny and phylogeny, a unique and illuminating perspective on the natural history of the human beast …

Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt [1928-2018]

Goodbye, Mr. Gene …

Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza (25 January 1922 – 31 August 2018)


At Holloway’s

Ralph Holloway is at the Columbia University (New York) since 1964. More than half century dedicated to paleoneurology, brain evolution, fossils and endocasts. Some weeks ago I was visiting his laboratory, an amazing place, full of books, experience, and history. And collections. Endocasts are everywhere, witnessing at once the evolution of the human brain and the evolution of the moulding techniques. So I took the opportunity to ask Ralph some quick comments for this blog …

Why do we still need physical casts? (but do we?)

I think for the most part, we can do very well with virtual endocasts (as long as these don’t get hacked…), although these can never provide the same haptic experience as a true cast, even if it is a good 3D print. At the moment, I am working on LES1, Homo naledi, and while I have a 3D print from scan data of the endocast surface, and good images provided by Heather Garvin, I am making an endocast from a 3D print of the cranial portion, as I need the best resolution I can get of the occipital portion in particular. Even micro-CT scanning doesn’t always provide the subtle variations on the endocast surface that are critical for correctly identifying convolutional details. The downside of course is possible damage to original specimens, and lack of sharing with colleagues at other institutions unless they visit the lab where these are made. Furthermore, the accuracy of virtual endocasts depends on the software, the researcher’s experience, expertise, and whether the algorithms used to correct for distortion, etc, are accurate.

What is the main current challenge in paleoneurology?

The major challenge is to synthesize the overall size data (ECV’s) with whatever sulcal and gyral information (e.g., lunate sulcus, fronto-orbital sulcus, Broca’s cap regions, etc) is available with morphometric analyses for each specimen with temporal and archaeological evidence, so that actual hypotheses can be generated than can be tested within (or even beyond) the paleoneurological community. This requires researchers fully cognizant of anatomical details, and both nonhuman primate and human neuroscience. Needless to say, but many more hominin and hominid endocasts need to be found and studied if paleoneurology is to become a better science.

Advices to those who begin working in this field …

Know your neuro- and cranial anatomies! Stay humble, lose your hubris, and keep in mind how rare endocasts are, and how imperfect these usually are, and how difficult, if not impossible it is to really know what the brain was like when the hominin was alive, and realize that you will probably never see an endocast that fully captures all the convolution details that were part of that once throbbing brain. A lack of hubris will be essential for good science, and don’t dismiss earlier works in paleoneurology simply because these are not modern or based on the last decade of morphometric advances. Staying up to date, or being current with the findings coming out of neuroscience will be particularly difficult.

Rita Levi Montalcini

Rita Levi Montalcini

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