Jean-Alexandre Barré

Jean-Alexandre Barré (1880-1967)

Jean-Alexandre Barré (1880 – 1967) was a French neurologist.

A French neurologist known for his meticulous clinical examination and love of classical music. He was a student of Charcot and continued on much of his work, as well working with Babinski

Multiple neurological eponyms including with Guillain and Strohl with the acute paralytic neuropathy known as Guillain – Barré syndrome described in 1916.

  • Born on 25th May 1880 in Nantes, France
  • Worked as an intern with Babinski
  • 1912 – Published thesis “Les osteoarthropathies du tabes” (?degenerative osteoarthritis)
  • During the first world war was stationed in the neurology centre of the sixth regiment of the French Army where he worked with and befriended George Guillan
  • 1919 – Appointed professor of neurology in Strasbourg
  • 1950 – Retired
  • 1953 – Suffered a stroke leaving him with a hemiparesis
  • Died on 26th April 1967 in Strasbourg, France

Medical Eponyms
Barré sign (1919)

Sign of pyramidal disturbance [*aka manoeuvre de la jambe]. The patient (lying prone) is unable to keep the lower leg vertical on the side of a pyramidal lesion when the knees are flexed.

Barré sign: manoeuvre de la jambe
Barré sign: manoeuvre de la jambe

Guillain- Barré syndrome (1916)

An acute inflammatory paralytic neuropathy [*aka Landry palsy; Landry-Guillain–Barré–Strohl syndrome]

Barré-Liéou syndrome (1926)

Also known as a posterior cervical sympathetic syndrome. A controversial syndrome which is characteristic by an occipital headache, vertigo, tinnitus and blurred vision which is attributed to irritation of the cervical sympathetic chain by chronic cervical arthritis. First described in 1925 and 1926 by Barré, and further described in 1928 by Yang-Choen Lieou, a student of Barré’s in Strasbourg

  • Barré JA. Un nouvel aspect neurologique de l’arthrite cervicale chronique: le syndrome cervicale sympathique poste´rieur. Soc d’ONO Fr de Strasbourg; 1925
  • Barré JA. Sur a sympathic cervical syndrome postérieur et sa cause frequent, l’arthrite cervicale. Revue Neurologique. 1926; 1: 1246-1248
  • Liéou YC. Syndrome sympathique cervical posterieur et arthrite cervicale chronique de la colonne vertebrale cervicale. Etude clinique et radiologique. These. Strasbourg, 1928

Barré test

Despite the relatively prevalent reporting of Barré being one of the first people to describe pronator drift and the use of the term “Barré test” to refer to an arm drift test in the detection of a subtle hemiparesis; this eponym has been incorrectly attributed to Jean Alexander Barré.

It was, Giovanni Mingazzini (1859-1929) in his original paper in 1913 that described this sign as the tendency for downward drift of both the arms and legs when an organic hemiparesis may be present.

The confusion likely arises from Barré’s description within his 1937 paper “Le syndrome pyramidale deficitaire”, where he also used photos demonstrating Mingazzini’s arm and leg tests but without referencing the original article.

In terms of Barré describing a sign relating to the upper limb, in 1920 he did describe “Le signe de l’écartement des doigts” which was a sign relating to the spreading of the fingers of both hands to demonstrate slight paresis

Mingazzini test and Barré test
Mingazzini test and Barré test
  • A. Arm drift test. Mingazzini 1913
  • B. Arm test of Mingazzini: from paper by Barré in 1937
  • C. Mingazzini leg test: from paper by Barré in 1937
  • D. Barré leg test: from paper by Barré in 1937

Major Publications



Eponymous terms


Physician in training. German translator and lover of medical history.

One comment

  1. Thank you very much for your excellent elucidation of the real facts in the background of this confusing area of “Barre-Mingazzini’s test “.

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