Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: early contributions of Jean-Martin Charcot

Muscle Nerve. 2000 Mar;23(3):336-43. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-4598(200003)23:3<336::aid-mus4>;2-l.


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is historically an important entity because its manifestations involve distinct signs that can be correlated with gray and white matter lesions at specific sites within the central nervous system. Working at the end of the nineteenth century, the celebrated neurologist, Jean-Martin Charcot, used this disorder as a prototypic example of the power of his research method, termed "méthode anatomoclinique." Using clinical cases and autopsy material, he showed how anatomical lesions in the nervous system could be accurately determined by the presence of carefully analyzed clinical signs. Charcot's work on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis brought together neurological entities formerly considered as disparate disorders, primary amyotrophy and primary lateral sclerosis. In addition, these studies contributed to the understanding of spinal cord and brain stem anatomy and the organization of the normal nervous system. Because of Charcot's fundamental contributions, the eponym "Charcot's disease" has been used internationally in association with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article
  • Portrait

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / history*
  • France
  • History, 19th Century
  • Humans
  • Neurology / history*

Personal name as subject

  • J M Charcot