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Beyond the Temples of Science - continued...

Instead of the action and non-action in the same system assumed by contemporaneous psychology and physiology, Schleich claimed that inhibition and excitation are linked to different anatomical substrates: neuronal excitation is modulated by glial inhibition. As Schleich points out, contemporary physiology, psychology and psychiatry "everywhere work with a thoroughly unreal, purely fantastic inhibition mechanism … However, it contradicts every analogy from the science of electricity that one and the same element, like the nerve cell, spontaneously executes now inhibition functions now actions" (Schleich 1897, pp. 83-84).

God and the devil

Schleich shared the fate of his artist friends. Just as Munch's paintings, Schleich's notion of a glia-neuron brain was either ridiculed or ignored. To the leading brain researchers Schleich's idea was not worth a footnote. The only place where his brain theory ever attracted attention was in the inner circle of the Berlin avant-garde. It seems to have been August Strindberg, who took the model of a glia-neuron brain seriously. Schleich recalled that:

Everything I could contribute to mechanics in the field of biology for my part, such as e.g. the presumption of an active inhibition apparatus in the brain, interested him most keenly. All of physics and chemistry in general, he asserted, could be traced back to power and inhibition, which sustained the workings of the entire universe. Then he remarked with inimitable, triumphing joy, 'You have finally caught hold of him: God and the Devil!' (Schleich 1917, p. 7)

It would take nearly a hundred years before 'common' brain researchers would catch up with Schleich's knowledge about neuroglia. Only in the last decades of the twentieth century did knowledge on neuroglia accumulate rapidly, and an extraordinary body of evidence has now been assembled by investigators from all fields of neuroscience supporting a key role for the glia in brain physiology.

Reference: Dierig, Sven. 2006. Beyond the Temples of Science: Bohemian Neuroscience in Fin-de-siècle Berlin . The Virtual Laboratory (ISSN 1866-4784),