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Book Describes NIMH, NINDB Research in the Fifties

The Office of NIH History, NIMH and NINDS have collaborated on a new book that describes intramural research in the 1950s. The book grew out of a symposium held on campus Apr. 11, 2003: "NIMH and NINDB Intramural Research in the 1950s." The book Mind, Brain, Body, and Behavior: Foundations of Neuroscience and Behavioral Research at the National Institutes of Health is edited by Ingrid G. Farreras, Caroline Hannaway and Victoria A. Harden (Amsterdam: IOS Press, 2004).

The 2003 symposium drew attention to the historic work of NIMH and NINDB intramural programs during their first decade of research at NIH. Twelve distinguished alumni from the basic and clinical programs of the two institutes presented talks about research in the 1950s, and many scientists donated personal historical photographs, correspondence, unpublished documents, laboratory notebooks, artifacts and other items from this time period to the Office of NIH History.

Drs. James Birren (l) and Joseph Brinley work in 1958 with the Psychomet instrument designed and built at NIMH to measure the difference in speed of response to complex stimuli.

In the book, the 12 speakers' talks are placed in a broader context to illustrate how this early research laid the foundation for later work. The first part of the book gives a detailed account of the history of the institutes and situates the individuals, events and research referred to by the scientists. It uses records of the time and oral histories of institute scientists to portray the context of research. It shows how the Division of Mental Hygiene of the Public Health Service evolved into the NIMH and how the new institute was organized. A similar history of the establishment of NINDB is then provided and also tied to that of NIMH, as both institutes shared a joint intramural basic research program throughout the 1950s.

The second part of the book presents succinct reviews of the research conducted by the 15 laboratories and branches of the NIMH and NINDB intramural basic and clinical research programs. The third part of the book offers first-hand recollections of the noted scientists' and administrators' experiences when they were at the institutes during the 1950s. The current NINDS director also gives her view of how that original research has changed over the course of time.

The book ends with four appendices providing information about the organizational structure of the two institutes, the scientists who worked there, citations of illustrative landmark papers that were published based on their research, and selected primary and secondary resources related to the history of these institutes.

Histories can only be written if records are kept and resources are available. A major aim of this volume is to spur scientists and administrators at NIH to collect, preserve and donate their archival materials to the Office of NIH History and the National Library of Medicine. The book also aims to foster further descriptive and analytical research on NIH and the history of biomedical sciences in the 20th century.

Copies are available at a discounted price to members of the NIH community in the FAES Bookstore in Bldg. 10.
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