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Todd, Faraday and the electrical basis of brain activity


The origins of our understanding of brain electricity and electrical discharges in epilepsy can be traced to Robert Bentley Todd (1809–60). Todd was influenced by his contemporary in London, Michael Faraday (1791–1867), who in the 1830s and 1840s was laying the foundations of our modern understanding of electromagnetism. Todd’s concept of nervous polarity, generated in nerve vesicles and transmitted in nerve fibres (neurons in later terminology), was confirmed a century later by the Nobel Prize-winning work of Hodgkin and Huxley, who demonstrated the ionic basis of neuro-transmission, involving the same ions which had had been discovered by Faraday’s mentor, Sir Humphry Davy (1778–1829).

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