Monday, July 26, 2010

Robert Galambos Predicted Key Role of Glial Cells in Brain

The great neruoscientist Robert Galambos had a Eureka! moment while flying on an airplane in 1960. He realized that the much-maligned glial cells, which make up about half of the mass of the human brain and 90 percent of its cells, were just as important to mental functions as the much-celebrated neurons. "I know how the brain works!" his NYT obit says he exclaimed on the plane. That may have been an overstatement, but he was certainly ahead of his time in recognizing the importance of glial cells. At the time, though, his fixation on the importance of glia cost him his job at Walter Reed, where he'd done seminal work on the neuroscience of perception. All turned out for the best though; Galambos went on to co-found the excellent neuroscience department at UC San Diego, where he continued to do research long after he retired at age 81. Turned out he was dead right about glia, which have since been shown to be key players in all kinds of brain functions. For a quick rundown on the emerging understanding of the role of glia--and how they might play a major role in epilepsy in particular--see my July piece in EpilepsyUSA, "The Glia Club: Glia take center stage in new studies of the brain and epilepsy."


Ray Brown said...

could not find article on Glial

The Author said...

Here's the URL:

Anonymous said...

Robert Galambos is my grandfather and it makes me happy to see you write about him and his work but that you got the story right about his "eureka" moment!
Thank you.