John Hughlings Jackson and his studies of Epilepsy

John Hughlings Jackson by Lance Calkin, 1895

John Hughlings Jackson by Lance Calkin, 1895

On April 4, 1835English neurologist John Hughlings Jackson was born. Jackson is best known for his research on epilepsy. His studies of epilepsy, speech defects, and nervous-system disorders arising from injury to the brain and spinal cord remain among the most useful and highly documented in the field. He was one of the first to state that abnormal mental states may result from structural brain damage.

John Hughlings Jackson attended the York Medical and Surgical School and became house physician to the York Dispensary around 1856. Starting from 1859Jackson worked at the Metropolitan Free Hospital and the London Hospital. During the 1860s, he was appointed Physician at the National Hospital for Paralysis and Epilepsy located in Queen Square, London and later Jackson became full Physician at the London Hospital.

John Hughlings Jackson is best known for his contributions to the diagnosis and understanding of epilepsy in all its forms and complexities. His name is attached to the characteristic “march” also known as the Jacksonian March or the Jacksonian Seizure. Characteristic for these seizures are focal motor seizures and to the so-called “dreamy state” of psychomotor seizures of temporal lobe origin. John Hughlings Jackson described this dreamy state as some kind of over-consciousness. For instance the associated symptoms described by Jackson include “crude sensations” of smell, taste, an unusual epigastric sensation, chewing and lip smacking, automatisms, postictal symptoms, and at least some degree of alteration of consciousnessJackson further described three degrees of consciousness, each with an object and subject component. John Hughlings Jackson’s theory of consciousness remains relevant to current understanding of the mind-brain relationship.

Throughout his careerJackson delivered the Goulstonian, Croonian and Lumleian lectures to the Royal College of Physicians, and he delivered the 1872 Hunterian Oration to the Hunterian Society.

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