NPI Early Years

Before the construction was completed, in November 1941 psychiatry patients were hospitalized, followed by neurophysiologists in the basement laboratories, and neurology and neurosurgery patients. Neuroradiology opened in early January 1942. The first operating room case was on December 9, 1941, a ventriculogram performed by Drs. Oldberg and Green. The second case was on December 10, 1941, a cerebellar exploration and fourth ventricle tumor resection again by Drs. Oldberg and Green. Percival Bailey, also having trained with Cushing (and co-authored a famous book on gliomas with Cushing in 1925), and with renowned German neurosurgeon Otfrid Foerster in Breslau along with neurologist Pierre Marie at La Salpêtriére in France, conducted pioneering surgical work on temporal lobectomy for non-lesional partial complex (psychomotor) epilepsy (Bailey and Gibbs), and early work on pre-frontal lobectomy for psychiatric disorders (which later fell into disuse).

Besides Bailey’s pioneering cross-over work on neurological and psychiatric disorders, he was an excellent teacher of the residents and students at the NPI.  He constructed cytoarchitectonic maps of the cerebral cortex along with Professor Gerhardt von Bonin in anatomy and Dr. Ralph Gerard in physiology. Bailey’s basic and clinical neuroscience research lead to significant developments regarding the function and interconnecting anatomy of the cerebral cortex and thalamus in primates and man. A number of new cortical accessory areas were identified, as well as cortical and subcortical motor control systems (in conjunction with neurosurgeon Dr. Paul C. Bucy). With Bucy, Bailey also investigated the structure of intracranial tumors and meningeal tumors. The two confirmed that a specific type of tumor (now known as an oligodendroglioma) consisted of oligodendroglia.

Other surgical milestones at the NPI included the first pericallosal aneurysm clipping and use of loupes (Oscar Sugar), and the early successful hemispherectomy and total Siamese twin separation (Oscar Sugar). In addition to his work with Bailey, neurosurgeon Paul Bucy (at the NPI until 1954) became famous for his work with neuropsychologist Heinrich Klüver at the University of Chicago for their description of the Klüver-Bucy syndrome. Bucy resected the temporal lobes on monkeys being studied by Klüver, who was trying to discover the anatomical localization of the effect on psychosis-inducing drug mescaline. The two did not discover mescaline’s point of action but did discover consistent characteristics such as hyperorality, docility, and hypersexuality, along with lack of normal fear response and hyperphagia. The syndrome was further localized to the amygdala, and has been described not only in lobectomies, but in herpes encephalitis, carbon monoxide poisoning, and anoxic brain injury.

In neurology, clinical initiatives included the recruitment of Frederic and Erna Gibbs in electroencephalography and cerebral blood flow, and Oscar Sugar in angiography (vertebral) to visualize anomalies for the first time. Other clinical neurology emphasized multiple sclerosis (Ronald Mackay), epilepsy (John S. Garvin and Gibbs), degenerative disorders (Ben Lichtenstein), and other common conditions. Mackay, Bailey, and Bucy were later presidents of the American Neurological Association. Research staff at the NPI included director Warren McCullough (1941-1951), Gerhardt von Bonin, Walter Pitts, Ralph Gerard (1952-1955), Karl Pribram, Arthur Ward, Horace Magoun, and Erna Gibbs (wife of Frederic). McCullough developed ideas about the mathematical representation of neural networks, which laid the framework for later advances in computer models of cognition.

Frederic Gibbs was a noted neurologist before he came to the NPI, and established a comprehensive epilepsy clinic at the NPI in the 1950s, the first of its kind in Illinois. Gibbs and his wife were pioneers in EEG, and discovered many EEG correlates in neurological and psychiatric patients, building one of the largest archives of cortical EEG recordings in epileptics. John R. Hughes, MD, PhD, who was influenced by Gibbs and took his place in 1977, is still on faculty in neurology at the NPI as of 2013, conducted research on EEG in many conditions as well, and authored the authoritative EEG text, EEG in Clinical Practice. A refugee from Nazi Germany, Berlin neurologist Ernst Haase (1894-1961) was on staff at the NPI in the 1940s and 50s and conducted epilepsy research with Erna Gibbs, among other teaching and research endeavors. Haase was later secretary and vice-president of the Chicago Neurological Society (CNS) prior to his untimely death from a heart attack at a CNS meeting in 1961.

In neuropathology, Percival Bailey, Ben Lichtenstein, and later Orville T. Bailey (not related to Percival) conducted research. Bailey, using the laboratory on the 6th floor of the NPI, built a large collection of brain slices on a number of normal and neuropathological conditions such as brain tumors, cerebral hemorrhages, and brain trauma.  These brain slices are on display currently at the UIC Health Sciences Library exhibit on “Mr. Neurology: Percival Bailey” (  Residents and fellows came from the USA and abroad for neuropathology and research experience. For nearly 25 years continuously, the NPI hosted Boards in Neurological Surgery and Neurology. Many NPI trainees would later hold professorships and chairmanships in North America and abroad. One of these, John R. Green, later became head of the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. Of note, Louis D. Boshes, a neurology trainee at UIC, and Percival Bailey were acquainted in the 1940s with a famed neurologist and Nazi Europe refugee Adolf Wallenberg (describer of Wallenberg’s syndrome, lateral medullary syndrome). Wallenberg agreed to donate his neuropathological specimens to the NPI, but they had been destroyed by Allied air raids on Danzig toward the end of World War II.