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100 Years of EEG

The Centennial of the Discovery of Brain Waves

Brain Waves 2

The Fascinating Tale of Hans Berger and the Birth of EEG

Have you ever wondered who first peeked into the electrical dance of the human brain? Meet Hans Berger, the ingenious mind behind electroencephalography, or EEG, which revolutionized how we study brain activity. His work is a cornerstone of neuroscience.

A Personal Quest Begins

Berger’s journey into the depths of the brain began with a dramatic personal experience. He believed he had a telepathic connection with his sister during a life-threatening incident. This profound experience sparked his curiosity, leading him to pursue psychiatry and explore the physiological roots of psychic phenomena.

A Breakthrough in Brain Research

On July 6, 1924, Berger achieved a milestone: the first EEG recording of human brain activity. Picture this—during a neurosurgical procedure on a 17-year-old boy, Berger initially used invasive methods, placing electrodes under the scalp. But as his work progressed, he pioneered non-invasive techniques, laying the groundwork for the EEG methods we use today.

Sharing the Knowledge

In 1929, Berger published “Über das Elektrenkephalogramm des Menschen” or “On the Electroencephalogram of Man,” a paper that introduced the world to EEG. He coined the terms “alpha” and “beta” waves to describe the rhythmic fluctuations he observed in the brain’s electrical activity.

Discoveries That Changed the Game

Berger’s work revealed that our brainwaves alter with different mental states, such as during sleep or when we’re thinking hard. He even noticed distinct electrical patterns linked to brain tumors. These insights opened new doors in understanding the brain’s inner workings.

Early Doubts and Later Validation

Initially, the scientific community met Berger’s findings with skepticism. However, his research eventually gained validation and widespread acceptance, thanks in part to Nobel laureate Edgar Adrian of the University of Cambridge.

A Legacy That Lives On

Today, EEG is a vital tool in diagnosing and monitoring neurological conditions like epilepsy, sleep disorders, and brain injuries. The alpha wave rhythm, sometimes called “Berger’s wave,” continues to bear his name in honor of his contributions.

A Tragic End to a Brilliant Mind

Despite his monumental contributions, Berger’s life took a dark turn. He was ousted from his research position in Germany before World War II and tragically ended his own life in 1941. Yet, his pioneering work on EEG has left an indelible mark on neuroscience and clinical practice.

Hans Berger’s story is not just about scientific discovery; it’s about how personal experiences can lead to breakthroughs that change the world. His legacy in the realm of neuroscience continues to impact lives and inspire curiosity about the human brain.

Further Reading

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DISCLAIMER:  The information in this page is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content is for general informational purposes only and does not replace a consultation with your own doctor/health professional. 

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