Sir Henry Head (1861 – 1940) was an English neurologist.
Head provided one of the earliest representations of the pattern of peripheral sensory dermatomes in man
Head provided an account of 450 cases of herpes zoster documenting the distribution of the lesions and deduced the
distribution of the posterior nerve roots.
Talented artist and poet
Career cur short by Parkinsonism
- Born 4 August 1861 in Stoke Newington, Middlesex
- 1910-1925 Editor of the journal Brain
- Died 11 (or 8th) October 1940 in Reading, Berkshire
- Head’s zones (1893-1896) Zones of skin hyperalgesia, associated with visceral disease. Referred sensation from the viscera, such as shoulder tip pain with gall bladder disease
- Head-Holmes syndrome (1911) Sensory changes produced by lesions of the cerebral cortex and other parts of the brain.
- Head-Riddoch syndrome (1917) (autonomic dysreflexia)
Key Medical Contributions
Head and James Sherren (1872-1945) had tried to determine the sensibility remaining after complete division of all cutaneous nerves without injury to the muscular branches. However accidents of this nature were exceedingly rare, and although ‘real patients’ were helpful it was deemed that “Introspection could be made fruitful by the personal experiences of a trained observer only“. The decision was therefore made to perform surgical transection on the left hand radial nerve of Head, with evaluation of results by William Halse Rivers (1864 – 1922)…
At the time of the experiment, H. was nearly 42 years of age and in perfect health. Since boyhood he had suffered from no illnesses, excepting as the consequence of wounds in the post-mortem room….For two years before these experiments began he had given up smoking entirely. No alcohol was ever taken on the days during which he was under examination.
On April 25, 1903…an incision 6.5 in. (16.5 cm.) long was made in the outer bicipital fossa extending along the axial line of the left upper extremity…the radial nerve was divided at the point where it arises from the musculospiral (N. radialis). A small portion was excised, and the ends united with two fine silk sutures. The external cutaneous nerve (N. cutaneus antibrachii lateralis) was also divided…and sutured with fine silkRivers 1908
Following the surgical section and repair of Head’s superficial radial nerve, Sherren and Rivers commenced rigorous and meticulous observation through sensory testing and evaluating psycho-social responses during the period of recovery and for the following 5 years. This contributed greatly to the understanding of the sensory examination following nerve injury
Head’s posterior roots (1891) and dermatome mapping
..a fundamental difference between the areas marked out on the surface of the body by Sherrington and by myself in that, whilst his areas overlap considerably, mine do not overlap to any appreciable extentHead 1893: 43
1932: Professor Otfrid Foerster published The dermatomes in man and concluded that ‘The dermatomes of man overlap to the same large degree as do those of the monkey’
I have had the opportunity of defining a great number of dermatomes in man by exactly the same method as that used by Sherrington, that is by outlining the borders of the sensibility which remains after a large number of contiguous roots have been divided, and a single root in the middle of them has been left intact. I need not discuss here the circumstances under which such a selected procedure may be undertaken.…Foerster 1933
- Head H. On the disturbances of sensation, with special reference to the pain of visceral disease. 1893; 16(1-2): 1-133 [Head’s zones]
- Head H. On the disturbances of sensation, with special reference to the pain of visceral disease. Part II – Head and neck. 1894, 17(3): 339-480. [Head’s zones]
- Head H. On the disturbances of sensation, with special reference to the pain of visceral disease. Part III – Pains in then disease of the heart and lung. 1896, 19(2-3): 153-276. [Head’s zones]
- Head H, Campbell AW. The pathology of herpes zoster and its bearing on sensory localization. Brain 1900; 23: 353–523
- Head H, Rivers WHR, Sherren J. The afferent nervous system from a new aspect, 1905
- Head H, Sherren J. The Consequences of Injury to the Peripheral Nerves in Man. Brain; 1905: 28(2): 116-338
- Rivers WH, Head H. A human experiment in nerve division. Brain 1908; 31(3): 323–450 [Radial nerve dissection]
- Head G, Holmes GM. Sensory disturbances from cerebral lesions. Brain, 1911; 34(2-3): 102–254. [Head-Holmes syndrome]
- Head H, Fearnsides EG. The clinical aspects of syphilis of the nervous system. 1914
- Head H, Riddoch G. The automatic bladder, excessive sweating and some other reflex conditions in gross injuries of the spinal cord. Brain, 1917; 40(2-3): 188-263 [Head-Riddoch syndrome (autonomic dysreflexia)]
- Head H. Studies in neurology, 1920 [Volume II]
- Head H. Aphasia and kindred disorders of speech. 1926
- Head H. Destroyers and Other Poems. Oxford University Press, 1919. This tome includes collected poems from privately published books including Pastoral; Spring Death; and Songs of La Mouche
- Foerster O. The dermatomes in man. Brain 1933; 56(1): 1–39
- Holmes G. Henry Head, 1861 – 1940. Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society. 1941; 3(10): 665–689
- Obituary: Sir Henry Head, M.D. Arch. Neurol. Pysch 1941; 45: 698-702
- Brain R. Henry Head: The Man and His Ideas. Brain. 1961; 84(4): 561–566.
- Brain R. Henry Head’s work on sensation. Brain, 1961; 84(4): 535-550.
- Sir Henry Head (1861-1940). JAMA. 1965;191(4):334-335.
- Henson RA. Henry Head: his influence on the development of ideas on sensation. British Medical Bulletin. 1977; 33(2): 91-96.
- Trombley S. A Sympathetic Empiricist: Sir Henry Head. In: All that summer she was mad : Virginia Woolf and her doctors. 1981: 159-182
- Reich SG. Destroyers and other verses. Henry Head, the poet. Arch Neurol. 1988;45(11):1257-1260.
- Silver JR. The history of Guttmann’s and Whitteridge’s discovery of autonomic dysreflexia. Spinal Cord. 2000;38(10):581-596
- Pearce JM. Henry Head (1861-1940). J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2000; 69(5): 578.
- Greenberg SA. The history of dermatome mapping. Arch Neurol. 2003;60(1):126-131.
- Greenberg SA. Henry Head (1861-1940). J Neurol. 2004; 251(9): 1158-1159.
- Pearce JM. The micrographia of Sir Henry Head (1861-1940). J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2008;79(3):307.
- Lenfest SM, Vaduva-Nemes A, Okun MS. Dr. Henry Head and lessons learned from his self-experiment on radial nerve transection. J Neurosurg. 2011;114(2):529-533.
- Schott GD. Henry Head, herpes zoster and the graphic development of his ‘scheme of the dermatomes in man’. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2017;88(9):789-793.
- Compston A. Sir Henry Head FRS (1861-1940): a life in science and society. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2017; 88(9): 716-717.
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