1973. Henri Gastaut

Henri Jean Pascal Gastaut (1915-1995) was a French epileptologist. After obtaining a graduate degree in the natural sciences, Gastaut obtained his medical degree from the University of Marseille in 1945. He specialized in neurology under Henri Roger (1860-1946) and, at the same time, engaged in specialized studies of normal and pathological neuro-anatomy. In 1953 he became Head of the Neurobiological Laboratories at the Marseille Hospital, focusing his studies on modern techniques of EEG for analysing normal and ab-normal cortical function. He was also director of the regional centre for epileptic children (1960). From 1960 to 1972, Gastaut’s clinical and academic activities were divided between the University Hospital La Timone and the Centre Saint-Paul. During the same time, he was Head of one of the units of the National Institute for Medical Research (INSERM), which was dedicated to epilepsy. From 1957 to 1968 he was secretary general and from 1969 to 1973 president of the International League against Epilepsy. In 1973, a chair of clinical neurophysiology was established for him, and he held the permanent position of Professor of Clinical Neurophysiology until his retirement in 1984. His major interests were the study of electroencephalography and brain function and epilepsy.

Gastaut defined five of the major human EEG patterns: lambda waves, mu rhythm, pi rhythm, posterior theta rhythm, and rolandic spikes. He established several methods for activating abnormal EEG discharges, including photic stimulation and photic-pentylenetetrazol activation. His work addressed almost all clinical aspects of seizures and epilepsy, particularly seizure semiology; he described unilateral seizures, tonic seizures, atonic seizures, and typical and atypical absence seizures. He individualized one of the most malignant childhood epileptic encephalopathies (the Lennox-Gastaut syndrome), contributed to modern definition of West’s syndrome and identified benign partial epilepsy of childhood with occipital spike-waves.

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