[Skip to Navigation]
August 1968

Wernicke's Encephalopathy

Author Affiliations

Durham, NC
From the Divisions of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC.

Arch Neurol. 1968;19(2):228. doi:10.1001/archneur.1968.00480020114012

TO CARL WERNICKE, mental disorders were diseases of the brain. Wernicke, a German psychiatrist and neuroanatomist, devoted his career to finding the morphologic bases for psychiatric disorders. His description of hemorrhagic superior polioencephalitis, which became known as Wernicke's encephalopathy, was characteristic in that he defined the new entity in both clinical and anatomical terms. The account appeared in Wernicke's three-volume tome Lehrbuch der Gehirnkrankheiten, published in 1881-1883.

Wernicke's encephalopathy, manifested by ophthalmoplegia, ataxia, and disturbance of consciousness, came to be so widely regarded as a complication of alcoholism that more recent authors have seen fit to emphasize its occurrence in nonalcoholics.1,2 Wernicke's first case, however, was a 20-year-old seamstress who had pyloric stenosis as the result of sulphuric acid ingestion.

An important contribution to the pathology of Wernicke's encephalopathy was made by Gamper3 who described involvement of the mammillary bodies in chronic cases. It is still not

Add or change institution