Chiefly noted for his studies of brain functions, Franz did his undergraduate and graduate work at Columbia University, except for a year of study with Wilhelm Wundt in Leipzig. He received his Ph.D. under Cattell in 1899, assisting him in the development of the psychological laboratory. He then spent two years as assistant in physiology, after which he taught that subject at the Dartmouth Medical College (1901-1904) and at George Washington University (1906-1924). From 1907 on he was also scientific director and later laboratory research director of the government hospital now known as St. Elizabeth’s. From 1924 until his death he served as professor of psychology at the University of California and head of the psychological and educational clinic of the Children’s Hospital in HollywoodFranz’ most lasting contributions were made in the study of brain functions. The background against which he worked is highly important. During the nineteenth century most investigators, under the influence of faculty psychology and the doctrine of phrenology, sought to discover specific brain centers for specific intellectual, emotional and motor functions. The chief opponent of this point of view was Pierre Flourens, a French anatomist who removed different parts of a pigeon’s brain and showed that although certain functions were lost, they could also be reacquired. He therefore concluded that the nervous system characteristically acts as a unit (“action commune”), and that intact tissue might come into play as a means of regaining lost functions.Other investigators, however, turned the tide against these views. In 1861 Paul Broca performed an autopsy on a man who had not been able to talk, but who did not appear to be paralyzed or retarded in any other way. When he found a lesion in the frontal lobe of the left hemisphere, he concluded that the speech center was located in that area. In addition, two German surgeons, G. Fritsch and E. Hitzig, studied the reactions of soldiers who suffered head wounds during the Franco-Prus- sian War, and also applied weak electric currents to various parts of the motor cortex of animals. Their studies showed that stimulation of different areas produced different bodily reactions; and when they published their results in 1870, the race to find specific centers was on.When Franz entered upon the study of brain functions, he focused his attention on an area that had been largely neglected, the frontal lobes. Some investigators had termed them “silent areas” since they did not seem to have a function. Others suggested that they mediated associations, simply because this function was the only one not assigned a locus in the brain. However,the famous case of Phineas Gage who had a crowbar driven through his left frontal lobe by an explosion, suggested that damage to this area interfered with complex mental activities but not with simple functions. Franz attacked this problem and showed that (1) lobotomy of both lobes of monkeys and cats did not cause a loss of old habits, such as eating or scratching, but interfered with more recent ones, since these animals forgot how to escape from a problem box; (2) lost habits could be relearned without tissue restoration; (3) destruction of only one lobe did not eliminate habits but only reduced efficiency of performance. These findings were first recorded in a paper published in 1902.Franz found further evidence against a strict localization theory in performing autopsies, discovering that when cerebral atrophy had occurred, neither the location nor severity of the tissue loss could be closely related to the specific symptomatology. He also mapped the motor areas of the monkey brain, showing that stimulation at the same point in the cortex produced different effects in different animals. These and other findings led him to the conclusion “that the paths of reactions are not simple anatomical unities which have commonly been believed in but that these paths are diffuse and that anatomically as well as physiologically they are complex.”In his later work, Franz continued to oppose “the new phrenology” as he called it. One of his major contributions was the development of re-educational programs for persons with brain lesions, based on his discovery that lower animals were able to relearn activities which had been lost after brain extirpation. He combined a psychological with a physiological approach by including games as incentives, by introducing friendly competition, and by devising apparatus that permitted the patient to see how much he was improving. When he found large individual differences in the rate of improvement for different patients, he called for individualized rehabilitation programs, a point that is stressed today. As a result of his efforts, a large number of paralyzed and crippled patients recovered a surprising amount of mobility, and many aphasic patients whose condition was caused by brain injury were greatly helped.Franz was elected president of the American Psychological Association in 1920, and served as editor of the Psychological Bulletin from 1912 to 1924, and of Psychological Monographs from 1924 to 1927. In addition to numerous journal articles, he published the Handbook of Mental Examination Methods (1912), Nervous and Mental Re-education (1923), and Persons One and Three (1933). His work in the field of brain functions was carried on and expanded by his colleague, Karl S. Lashley. See LASHLEY.

Cite this page: N., Sam M.S., "FRANZ, SHEPHERD IVORY," in, November 28, 2018, (accessed September 29, 2022).


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