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The forgotten militant and his enduring mission: Zing-Yang Kuo and his extraordinary years in behavioral neuroembryology (1929–1939)

ABSTRACT Zing-Yang Kuo (1898–1970), hailed as China’s behaviorist psychologist, earned “Out-Watsons Mr. Watson” in the international anti-instinct movement. His contributions to the field on behavioral neuroembryology (1929–1939) are often overlooked in comparison to his achievements in psychology. We retrieved the titles of all of Kuo’s publications from 1929 to 1939 and examined those related to his research on the origins and development of embryonic behavioral ontogeny and the neural basis of embryonic behavior. Remarkably, Kuo concurrently focused on embryos during the same period as North American neuroembryologists. He maintained an independent stance in the debate over the sequence of behavioral ontogeny, represented by the embryonic neuroscientists Coghill and Windle, and critically pointed out limitations in research on both sides of the debate. Drawing from his experiments with chicken embryos, Kuo proposed the theory of behavioral epigenesis, which attempted to end the nature–nurture dichotomy and promote the transformation of the research path of behavioral embryology from elementary physiological anatomy toward a deep “comprehensive science.” Kuo’s achievements directly laid the foundation for the interdisciplinary field of developmental psychobiology, constructing a new conceptual framework for the systematic analysis of behavioral development and promoting the establishment and development of a new approach to epiphenotype epigenetics.

Lathyrism in Spain: Lessons from 68 publications following the 1936–39 Civil War

ABSTRACT After the end of the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939), an estimated 1,000 patients presented with lathyrism due to their excessive and prolonged consumption of grasspea (Lathyrus sativus L.) against the backdrop of poverty, drought, and famine. Based on 68 scientific communications between 1941 and 1962 by qualified medical professionals, the disease emerged in different geographical locations involving selective populations: (1) farmers from extensive areas of central Spain, traditionally producers and consumers of grasspea; (2) immigrants in the industrial belt of Catalonia and in the Basque Country, areas with little or no production of grasspea, which was imported from producing areas; (3) workers in Galicia, an area where the legume is neither produced nor consumed, who were seasonally displaced to high-production areas of grasspea in Castille; and (4) inmates of overcrowded postwar Spanish prisons. Original reports included failed attempts by Carlos Jiménez Díaz (1898–1967) to induce experimental lathyrism, the neuropathology of lathyrism in early stages of the disease in two patients, as reported by Carlos Oliveras de la Riva (1914–2007), and the special susceptibility of children to develop a severe form of lathyrism after relatively brief periods of consumption of the neurotoxic seed of L. sativus. In the Spanish Basque Country, L. cicera L. (aizkol) was cultivated exclusively as animal fodder. Patients who were forced to feed on this plant developed unusual manifestations of lathyrism, such as axial myoclonus and severe neuropsychiatric disorders, unknown in other regions of the country and previously unreported. The postwar epidemic of lathyrism in Spain represents the most extensively studied outbreak of this self-limiting but crippling upper motor neuron disease.