Turan Itil was born in Bursa, Turkey, on August 12, 1924. He was educated in Turkey and received his basic medical training at Istanbul Universitesi Cerrahbasa (1948). He then obtained advanced training as a neuropsychiatrist in Germany at the Universities in Tübingen and Erlangen, under the guidance of such historical figures as Kretschmer and Flügel, becoming an expert in neurology, in clinical psychiatry and in the analysis of brain wave activity through electroencephalography. Advancement in academia in Germany was, however, very limited for non-Germans, so at the invitation of Max Fink, in 1964, he immigrated to the US where he was offered a Professorship at the University of Missouri School of Medicine. He formally began his academic career there, moving some years later to the New York Medical College and then, in 1991, to the New York University School of Medicine.
Max Fink, a pioneer in encephalography, and a lifelong collaborator, gives Turan Itil the majority of the credit for (1) development of computerized approaches to the EEG (Itil 1968) and (2) its use in profiling the distinct brainwave patterns induced by the various classes of psychotropic drugs.
In merging his skills in neurology and psychiatry for the new field of neuropsychopharmacology, Itil brought a distinct form of expertise to the field. Grounded in his new technology, he advanced brain wave analysis, supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health and from pharmaceutical companies: he (3) generated distinct profiles of the various classes of psychotropic drugs (Itil et al 1968) and (4) developed early tests of promising new drugs through his studies of their actions on brain wave activity (Itil et al 1972). His studies led to the detection of antidepressant properties in Organon’s mianserin (GB-94), which he then patented, and which has now become an established treatment for the depressive disorders (Itil et al 1972).
In his role as a clinical methodologist, he collaborated in the design of studies testing new treatments for mental disorders and helped develop a new type of drug evaluation, e.g., (5) the new VIBES, a method that utilizes video to assess clinical changes (Katz, Itil 1974). (5) In the allied field of neurology, he innovated in the early detection and treatment of Alzheimer’s disorder (Itil et al 1996). He was valued for his active role in the NIMH Early Clinical Drug Evaluation program, as a consultant for several pharmaceutical companies, and was particularly helpful in the conduct of cross-national drug studies, an area in which he had distinct sensitivity. Aside from his academic role, he continued to see patients throughout his career and took special pride in his capacity as a clinician, a skill he valued above all others.
Turan Itil was a pioneer in the field of neuropsychopharmacology and an innovative and creative investigator. As a person and collaborator, he was especially valued for the energy and enthusiasm he brought to every project he worked on.
He touched the lives of many colleagues and patients, was a joy to work with, and brought a unique “light” into a very complicated field of clinical and research activity.
Turan Itil passed away at his home, in Mersin, Turkey, on April 29, 2014, at the age of 89. The scientific and clinical community, his friends, and especially, his family, his son, Kurt and daughter, Yasmin Leland, and the many relatives who were fortunate enough to know him during his long and eventful life, will miss him greatly.
Itil TM. Electroencephalography and pharmacopsychiatry. In Freyhan F, Petrilowitsch N, Pichot P, editors. Modern Problems of Pharmacopsychiatry,vol 1. Base: Karger; 1968, pp, 163-94
Itil TM Quantitative pharmaco-electroencephalography in the discovery of a new group of psychotropic drugs. Dis. nerv Sys 1972; 338: 557-9
Itil TM, Eralp E, Tsambis E., Itil KZ, Stein U. Central nervous system effects of gingko biloba, a plant extract. American Journal of Therapeutics 1996; 1: 63-73.
Itil TM, Polvan N, Hsu W. Clinical and EEG effects of GB-94, a tetracyclic” antidepressant (EEG model in discovery of a new psychotropic drug). Curr. Ther. Res. 14/7: 395-413, 1972.
Itil TM, Shapiro DM, Fink M. Differentiation of psychotropic drugs by quantitative EEG analysis. Agressologie 1968; 9: 267-80.
Martin M. Katz
August 14, 2014