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New clinical and employment information, together with over-looked previously published information, on a patient (H.C.) is reviewed. H.C., who died at the age of 76 in 1939, was found, by chance during anatomical dissection, to lack a cerebellum. This synthesis challenges an unusual and interesting account of cerebellar agenesis published in Brain in 1994 by Glickstein (see also Glickstein, 2006), in which the allegedly 'bogus' oral history of this individual's motor skills was held to have led to 'medical myth making'. Part of the burden of the 1994 paper was to show that 'cerebellar agenesis is always associated with profound motor deficits'. Glickstein therefore focussed on an apparent 'exception' to this conclusion, concerning the brain of a single case, H.C., who died 70 years ago, who 'had given rise to an oral tradition alleging that normal movement is possible despite total cerebellar agenesis'. Glickstein (1994) concludes 'despite an oral tradition to the contrary there is absolutely no evidence about the motor capacities of this man during his life'. Rather remarkably, an extensive history of this individual has become available, its significance becoming noted only this year; this complements and adds to a previous brief history published on H.C. (and not mentioned in the 1994 paper; see below). The new evidence includes the death certificate stating the man's occupation to have been 'manual labourer' with all the implications relevant to his supposed incapacity. The written historical record thus confronts the alleged 'myth'. It is interesting to note how medical records on an undoubtedly very ordinary citizen were recorded in London in the 1930s (before the NHS was set up in 1949) and how they could be made accessible to clinical colleagues in east London in the middle of World War II blitz bombing of the capital.

Original publication

DOI

10.1093/brain/awp265

Type

Journal article

Journal

Brain

Publication Date

03/2010

Volume

133

Pages

941 - 944

Keywords

Aged, Cerebellum, History, 20th Century, Humans, London, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Medical Records, Motor Skills, Occupations