S. Giménez-Roldán Neurosciences and History 2014;2(2):49-53
Type of article: ORIGINAL
S. Giménez-Roldán Department of Neurology. Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Marañón, Madrid, Spain.
Objetive. Different biographers have underlined Broca's early contributions (1847-1852) to the study of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (1861). Our purpose is to pinpoint the origin of this claim using original sources.
Methods. We reviewed the history of muscular dystrophy according to different authors, biographies of Duchenne and Broca, and issues of the Bulletins de la Société Anatomique de Paris published in the specified time period and mentioning Broca's studies of muscular atrophy, foot deformities, or lower limb weakness.
Results. Between 1847 and 1852, Paul Broca described four autopsied cases of clubfoot associated with severe atrophy and fatty degeneration of the muscles of the lower extremities. Two of these individuals had experienced progressive neuromuscular disease characterised by bilateral pes cavus, marked atrophy of the peroneus muscles, and moderate impairment of the thigh muscles; there was also slight atrophy of hand muscles in one case. Broca identified the underlying cause of the foot deformity as the muscular imbalance between agonists and antagonists created by unequal degrees of muscular atrophy.
Conclusion. Broca's observations are more suggestive of peroneal muscular atrophy than of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. These early contributions to the study of this neuromuscular syndrome appeared some 40 years before Charcot, Marie, and Tooth published their classic descriptions in 1886.
Paul Broca, peroneal muscular atrophy, pes cavus, Duchenne muscular dystrophy
Neurosciences and History 2014;2(2):49-53
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