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Laszlo J.Meduna

By Antonio Nardi


Lászlo Meduna was born on March 27, 1896, in Budapest, Hungary, and received his MD, in 1921, from the Medical Faculty of Pázmány Péter University.  Subsequently, in 1922, he joined Károly Schaffer, a psychiatrist and neurohistologist, in his Interacademic Institute for Brain Research in Budapest. After Schaffer’s appointment, in 1927, as professor (chair) of the Department of Psychiatry at the University, he became a member of his faculty (Shorter and Healy 2007).

Meduna began research in histopathology in the mid-1920s. While studying microglia cells in the rabbit, he found disease dependent differential changes, i.e., atrophy, in some diseases and swelling in others (Meduna 1927). Extending his research to autopsied material from psychiatric patients, in the early 1930s, he noted a marked decrease of microglia cells in the brains of patients with schizophrenia and a marked increase in patients with epilepsy (Fink 1985; Meduna 1932). Considering the findings of Nyirö and Jablonsky (1929) that the incidence of seizures decreased in those epileptics who developed schizophrenia, the observations of Glaus (1931) that schizophrenic psychopathology was transiently alleviated in schizophrenic patients with epilepsy, and the report of  Müller (1930) that two patients with schizophrenia “recovered” when they developed epilepsy, Meduna, in 1934, introduced pharmacologically-induced convulsions in the treatment of schizophrenia, with camphor first, then with pentylenetetrazol (Meduna 1935, 1937). In the late 1930s, Meduna emigrated from Hungary to the United States (Kuncz 1993). He became professor of Neurology, at Loyola University and became settled for the rest of his life at the Illinois Psychiatric Institute. In the mid - 1940s, he coined the term “oneirophrenia” for a small group of “atypical psychoses” conventionally diagnosed as schizophrenia (Meduna and McCullogh 1945, 1946) and,  in the late 1940s, he introduced carbon dioxide therapy, a “pharmacodynamic treatment of psychoneuroses” (Meduna 1947, 1948). In 1950, he published a monograph on both, with the title: Oneirophrenia and Carbon Dioxide Therapy (Meduna 1950). In 1958, Meduna became founding editor of the journal International Neuropsychiatry. Finally, in 1959, Meduna in collaboration with Abood, was one of the first to explore Ditran (1-ethyl-3 piperidyl cyclopentylphenylglycolate), an anticholinergic substance with atropine-like actions, in the treatment of depression (Meduna and  Abood 1959).       

Meduna died in Chicago on November 30, 1964, at age 68.

Fink M.  Autobiography of L.J. Meduna.Convulsive Therapy 1985; 1: 45-57.

Glaus A. Über Kombiationen von Schizophrenie und Epilepsie. Zeitschrift für Gesamte  Neurologie und Psychiatrie.  1931; 135: 450-500.

Kuncz E. Intézetünk az alapitástol a centenáriumig. In: Miklos K, Kuncz E, Kundra O, editors. Országos Psychiátriai es Neurologiai Intézet  125 Eves. Budaest: NEOTIPP; 1993, pp. 11-2.

Meduna L. Beiträge  zur Histopathologie der Mikroglia.  Archiv für Psychiatri und Nervenheilkunde 1927;  32: 123-93.

Meduna L. Klinische und anatomische Beiträge  zur Frage der genuinen Epilepsie. Deutshe Zeitschrift für Nervenheilkunde 1932; 129: 17-42.

Meduna LJ. Versuche über die biologische Beeinflussung des Ablaufes der Schizophrenia, I: Campher- und Cardiazolkrämpfe. Zeitschr Gesamte Neurolog Psychiatr. 1935;152: 235–62.

Meduna LJ: Die Konvulsionstherapie der Schizophrenie. Halle (Germany): Carl Marhold, 1937.

Meduna LJ. Pharmacodnamic treatment  of psychoneuroses.  Dis Nerv Syst 1947; 5: 244-8.

Meduna LJ. Alteration of neurotic pattern by use of CO2 inhalations. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disorders 1948; 108:373-9.

Meduna LJ. Carbon Dioxide Therapy. The Neurophysiological Treatment of Nervous Disorders. Springfield; Charles C. Thomas; 1950.

Meduna LJ. Oneirophrenia. Urbana; University of Illinois Press; 1950.

Meduna LJ. The convulsive treatment: a reappraisal. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Psychopathology 1954; 15:219-33.

Meduna LJ, Abood LG. Studies of a new drug (Ditran) on depressed states. Journal of Neuropsyhiatry 1959; 1: 20-22.

Meduna LJ, McCulloch WS. The modern concept of schizophrenia. Med Clin N America  1945; 29: 147 – 64.

Meduna LJ, McCulloch WS. Oneirophrenia, a clinicophysiologic syndrome. Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry 1946; 56: 483.

Müller G.  Anfälle bei schizophrenen Erkrankungen. Allgemeine Zeitschrift für Psyhiatie 1930; 93: 235-40. 

Nyirö Gy, Jablonsky A. Einige Daten zur Prognose der Epilepsie mit besoderer Rücksicht auf die Konsutution. Psychiatisch-Neurologische Wochnschrift 1929; 31: 647-9.

Shorter E, Healy D, Shock Therapy. Toronto: Toronto University Press; 2007, pp .9-30.


Antonio E. Nardi

November 27, 2014