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Obituaries

Erol Basar, 1938 - 2017

It is our deep regret to announce Erol Başar’s passing on the 28th of October 2017 in Istanbul. Professor Başar was born in Istanbul, Turkey in 1938. He had his high school education at Galatasaray gymnasium, a French speaking high school in Istanbul, a place where he had been attracted to the French philosophy and to the natural sciences. Later in university years, he studied particle physics in Munich, where he had the chance to attend those lectures offered by Werner Heisenberg and Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker. After completing his master degree in Hamburg, with a strong influence of “cybernetics” by Norbert Wiener, in his early years he decided to take on a career on systems analysis of the brain. Following the suggestions of Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker, he completed his PhD degree at the Institute of Physiology of the University Hannover on the systems analysis of vasculature and circulation, an experience which he later extended to the brain and the central nervous system during his post-doc studies in USA.

In 1970, Erol Başar founded the Department of Biophysics at Hacettepe University, one of the first of its kind in Turkey. Surrounded by enthusiastic young students, he conducted there, a wide range of studies on the electrical dynamics of the brain on various species. These studies brought him to the concept of “Brain Dynamics” at a period when the spontaneous EEG signals and the relatively novel event-related potentials were conventionally thought to be as two distinct types of electrical phenomena. In his monograph “EEG-Brain Dynamics”(1980), a magnum opus in the research area of event related oscillations, he hypothesized that the two electrical phenomena, the ongoing and event-related, were in fact, closely related to each other. He suggested that event-related potentials could be modelled as a superimposition of linear and/or non-linear changes in the various ongoing electrical oscillationsof the brain activity as in the form of phase-resetting and/or amplitude enhancement just like as the weak or strong “resonance” phenomena observed in quantum physics.

This hypothesis brought, not only a new perspective to the brain electrophysiology, but also introduced the possibility of investigating the inter-relations between the ongoing and event-related activities of the brain within a systematic framework. From early seventies on, Erol Başar’s research group also studied the coherence among pairs of different brain structures as a measure of dynamic interaction during various sensory inputs, perhaps as one of the earliest examples of functional brain connectivity. All of these pioneering works paved the way to the concept of evoked or event-related oscillations, which has built up the mainstream brain electrophysiology studies in later decades. In his book, he also introduced the idea that the EEG signal might reflect a switching between states of order and disorder in the brain as a form of strange attractor in dynamical systems, which was also widely explored in later years yielding important neuroscientific results.

In 1980 Erol Başar moved to Germany and worked at the Medical University Lübeck until 2000, where he extended his range of studies from cognitive processes, to the evolution of species, and to the more general strategies of brain dynamics approach. These efforts led him to organize two conferences after which he edited two new volumes, “Brain Oscillations I (Başar) and II (Başar& Bullock)”, published in 1988 and 1989, respectively. A small volume titled “Chaos in Brain Function” also appeared in 1990.

In 2000, Erol Başar returned his home country and established the brain research laboratories at Dokuz Eylül University in Izmir, where he studied between 2000 and 2006. Later he joined Istanbul Kültür University where he stayed until 2016.

His last monograph appeared in 2011: “Brain Body Mind in the Nebulous Cartesian System, A Holistic Approach by Oscillations”, as a multidisciplinary work amalgamating results from basic neuroscience, philosophy, clinical applications and physics. In this work he proposed a theory on the connectedness of the brain and body through oscillatory dynamics and stated that the relation of brain-body mind cannot be understood with classical Cartesian systems, but required a different framework. On the basis of the empirical data on circulatory dynamics and brain research he attempted to define the basic descriptors of such “Nebulous Cartesian System”.

“Application of Brain Oscillations in Neuropsychiatric Diseases, Supplements to Clinical Neurophysiology (2013)” was another volume he edited for Clinical Neurophysiology, in which the initial works on joint analysis of EEG and event related oscillations in Alzheimer’s Disease, mild cognitive impairment, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder were presented.

Prof. Erol Başar chaired nine international workshops/conferences and two world congresses in his whole career. Those organized in 1983 (Sensory and Cognitive Processing of the Brain), in 1985 (Sensory and Cognitive Processing of the Brain II), in 1987 (Brain Dynamics: Progress and Perspectives), and in 1990 (Induced Rhythms in the Brain) were among the first meetings, in which scientists gathered for a deep discussion on EEG-event related oscillations. As one of the champions of event related alpha response, he also organized one of the earliest meetings on the functional role of alpha oscillations, in Lübeck, Germany in 1994 by the name “Functional Correlates of Alpha Activity of the Brain”.

For his entire career, Erol Başar published 7 monographs and edited 12 books with the collaboration of distinguished scientists from all around the world, published more than 250 journal papers and carried out 18 international research projects. His impact on EEG research on the other hand, is immeasurably beyond these figures.

In Brian O’Donnell’s words, “Erol Başar was a very creative and influential scientist, but he was also someone even rarer, a leader who brought scientists together in a fragmented world. For Erol Başar, the borders didn’t count, only the science that was done.”

It was a privilege to work with Erol Başar, as he gave us the comfort and dedication to test our limits of thinking. He not only provided us with confidence for working on cutting-edge scientific problems buthe also taught us the joy of writing, whether it be a joy of writing a proceedings paper for a conference he organized, or a detailed research protocol, or a simple draft on free thoughts. He took science and turned it into a fun activity for us, but he did it in a very systematic way. Working with Professor Başar was to encounter the ideas of Descartes, Locke or Hume, the music of Mahler or Wagner, the cinema of Bergman, the poetry of Baudelaire, the “elan vital” of Bergson, or the paintings of Balaban. He was a best example of why someone needed intellectual and philosophical profundity to perform good science.

We believe that Erol Başar’s inspiration will continue to influence brain research for long times ahead, and his unforgettable memory will stay with us all.

Prof.Dr.BaharGüntekin
Prof.Dr.GörsevYener
Prof.Dr. Ahmet Ademoglu
Prof.Dr. Tamer Demiralp
Prof.Dr. Canan Başar-Eroglu
Turkish Society of Clinical Neurophysiology EEG – EMG


Dietrich Lehmann, 1929 - 2014

Footnote: This obituary was originally published in Brain Topography on 01-09-2014, doi: 10.1007/s10548-014-0390-6, and is published here with the kind permission of the publisher, Springer Science+Business Media LLC.

Dietrich LehmannWe regret to announce the passing of our esteemed colleague, mentor and friend Dietrich Lehmann on June 16, 2014. He filled his 85 years with a passion and determination that could have continued for many, many more.

Dietrich Lehmann was a pioneer of EEG mapping. What is today elaborately termed high-density EEG or electrical neuroimaging, he had already implemented over 40 years ago. He was decades ahead of his time and had a hard time convincing a community focused on EEG waveform analysis about the views and methods he had developed that turned out to be state-of-the-art thinking in 2014. In 1969 -- 45 years ago -- he published, together with Derek Fender, a case report in the journal Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology where dipole source analysis was applied to averaged 48-channel visual evoked potentials on a patient with a split chiasm. Two years later, in 1971. he published the seminal paper entitled “Topography of spontaneous alpha EEG fields in humans” in the same journal that ultimately established the term EEG topography and paved the way for innovative spatial analyses of the electric field at the scalp.

Dietrich Lehmann was born on December 3, 1929 close to Heidelberg, Germany, where he completed his medical studies and received the MD degree in 1957. After internships in neurology in Heidelberg, Munich, Freiburg, and Marseille, he moved to California in 1963. He began as a research fellow at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), moved as senior researcher to the Californian Institute of Technology (CalTech), and finally became associate professor and acting chairman of the Department of Visual Science at the University of the Pacific in San Francisco, California. Papers from this period on sleep and somnambulism (Nature), visual perception (Science), and evoked as well as spontaneous field topography (Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology) already document not only his large impact and broad range of interests, but also the emerging focus of his EEG work on spatial analysis. In 1971 he accepted the appointment to the Department of Neurology at the University Hospital in Zurich, where he became Professor for Clinical Neurophysiology in 1988. He retired in 1997, but not before founding, in 1995, the KEY Institute for Brain-Mind Research at the University Hospital of Psychiatry in Zurich, where he remained scientific director until his death.

Besides his unremitting dedication to the spatial analysis of the EEG, Dietrich’s scientific interest focused on the ongoing fluctuation of the spontaneous neuronal activity of the human brain, its relation to daydreaming, its influence on perception, and its modulation in psychiatric diseases. He discovered that the spontaneous EEG as well as event-related potentials could be divided into continuous segments of stable spatial configurations of the electric field. He named these segments “functional microstates”, many years before the imaging community invented the terms “resting states” and “task states”. He proposed that these spatially stationary microstates might be the basic building blocks of information processing, possibly reflecting the time for consciousness -- the “atoms of thought”. A large number of studies have examined (and continue to examine) the significance of these microstates and their modification in different diseases. Dietrich’s own work demonstrated microstate modulations in schizophrenia and also during sleep, hypnosis, and meditation, reflecting altered states of consciousness, which he found endlessly fascinating. The functional significance of microstates is still a hot topic and the subject of intense research.

Dietrich Lehmann was a fascinating personality with an insatiable and far-reaching thirst for knowledge and truth. He would discuss the ins and outs of theories of a biological basis of consciousness with the same insistence as he would argue about the proper seating of a subject in an experiment. He tirelessly fought for what he was convinced to be right and challenged those who presented, in his view, arguments that lacked a solid foundation, either in what was assumed to be true, or in what was to be considered as a-priori impossible, often supported by his sharp humor and skillful drawings. At the same time, he was as free and unorthodox about the hypotheses he considered worth pursuing as he was obsessed with methodological rigor and in-depth understanding of his own research. When publishing with him, reviewer comments were regularly far less challenging than Dietrich’s restless quest for perfection.

Dietrich was not a man for small-talk, and he did not like superficial people. For most who knew him, he was not only the inspiring true scientist, but also a particularly kind, modest, resourceful, and compassionate friend or mentor. His desire to understand the brain signals that he recorded did not diminish over the years. On the contrary, one of the last things he said to his wife and long-term scientific collaborator Martha Koukkou-Lehmann was, “It is too early. There is still so much to do in science.”

We wish to express our deepest condolences to Martha and to their daughters Phedra and Thalia, Dietrich’s son Marco, and the rest of the family. We will treasure Dietrich Lehmann in our memories forever.

Christoph M. Michel, Geneva, Switzerland
Daniel Brandeis, Zürich, Switzerland and Mannheim, Germany
Herbert Witte, Jena, Germany
Jiri Wackermann, Freiburg, Germany
Kieko Kochi, Osaka, Japan
Lorena Gianotti, Bern, Switzerland
Pascal Faber, Zürich, Switzerland
Patricia Milz, Zürich, Switzerland
Roberto Pascual-Marqui, Osaka, Japan
Thomas König, Bern, Switzerland
Toshihiko Kinoshita, Osaka, Japan
Werner Strik, Bern, Switzerland
Wolfgang Skrandies, Giessen, Germany


Jože Trontelj, 1939 - 2013

Our friend and colleague Jože has ended his days, much too early.
His impressive CV is, in brief:

Classical High School, Ljubljana – graduated with excellence in 1958
Medical Faculty, Ljubljana University – graduated in 1964
Specialized in Neurology, interested in Neurophysiology, with educational visits to Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, and Academic Hospital, Uppsala, Sweden
PhD - ” A study of reflex activity of single spinal motor neurones in man” - 1972
Professor of Neurology, Medical and Health Faculty, Ljubljana University - 1996
Senior health counselor (advisor to Slovenian Health Ministry) since 1995
In 1979 he established the Department of Neurophysiology at Ibn Sina Hospital, Kuwait and worked there periodically until 1992.
Member Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SASA) - 1995
Secretary of SASA Section of Medical Sciences – 1999-2002
Vice-president of SASA - 2002
President of SASA – 2008
Republic of Slovenia Medical Ethics Committee - 2004
Slovenian delegate, European Council Bioethics Steering Committee – 1995 (co-operated in drafting the Oviedo convention and its protocols)
Member, Culture Strategic Board of the Slovenian Government – 2005-2008
Chairman of the Slovenian Health Council – 1996-1998
Member, Standing Committee of the Science & Ethics Board of the All European Academies (ALLEA) - 2010
Member, International Bioethics Committee (IBC) (Nominated by the Unesco General Secretary) - 2010

He was awarded several high Slovenian state awards:
  • Boris Kidrič Foundation for Science in 1974 and 1980
  • Kidrič award for highest achievements in science in 1989
  • “Science Ambassador of the Republic of Slovenia” in 2003
  • “Golden Order of Merit” for his endeavors and achievements in science and ethics (awarded by the President of Slovenia) in 2009.
He was the first of Erik Stålberg´s students to visit Uppsala to learn SFEMG in 1967 and brought the technique home to Ljubljana, where he implemented it very successfully. With his observant eye he saw things not previously noticed, and refined and extended SFEMG not only within his own lab, but internationally. His scientific contributions are impressive, and many have learnt from him the gentle handling of the electrode and precise interpretation, open for the unexpected. His special interest was stimulation SFEMG. Among other publications, he was co-author of 3 editions of a monograph on SFEMG.

Jože devoted much of his time to bioethics in recent years. This was not only committee work, but he spread his knowledge in the field in many articles and in lectures. With a broad understanding of human nature, he was the right person to approach with difficult questions. Jože was a true humanist and people listened to his wise comments.

The SASA, of which he was still President, plays an important role in Slovenian society. Jože´s interest in science in general and in cultural and historical aspects made him the right man for this position. In spite of the fact that he liked it and felt the importance of helping his country in this field, to an outsider, it seemed to be a heavy burden.

Many of us saw Jože not only as teacher and scientist, but also as a friend. With his head held slightly to the side and with a constant smile, he saw us all individually. His warm-hearted appearance made the times we had together great moments in our lives. Many have in these last days commented on his humble and kind appearance. This image will remain in our minds, and we are thankful for all he gave us.

Jože was very close to his family, loved them, his home, his neighbours. He was a caring husband, father and grandfather. Our thoughts go to his wife, Tatjana, and the entire family. They have been his constant support and helped him enjoy his life so much.

Jože, THANK YOU!

Erik Stålberg
Don Sanders