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Arnold Scheibel

Professor of Neurobiology and Psychiatry, and former Director of the Brain Research Institute, UCLA

Arnold B. Scheibel was a Professor of Neurobiology and Psychiatry and former Director of the Brain Research Institute (BRI) at UCLA.

He did his undergraduate work at Columbia College and received his Doctor of Medicine degree from Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1946. Though initially interested in cardiology, the apparent pervasiveness of emotional factors in the disease patterns he was seeing led him to switch to psychiatry. After a year of psychiatric residency training at Washington University in St. Louis, he entered the Army as a medical officer and received further training while on active service at Brooke General Hospital in San Antonio.

Increasingly troubled by the lack of knowledge about brain substrates of psychiatric syndromology, Scheibel joined the neurophysiology laboratory of Warren McCulloch at Illinois Neuropsychiatric Institute to learn something about brain structure and function. Here, for the first time, he read some of the work of Camillo Golgi and Santiag Ramon y Cajal and discovered the beauty of the fine structure of the central nervous system as revealed by the silver chromate methods of Golgi. Today, more than half a century later, although largely superseded by more discriminative techniques, the Golgi still remains the “gold standard” against which all neurohistological techniques are measured.

After a short period as faculty member at the University of Tennessee and 15 months spent abroad (Universities of Pisa and Oslo) on a Guggenheim fellowship, Arne joined the faculty of the University of California at Los Angeles as a member of the Departments of Anatomy, and Psychiatry (1955), and is presently starting his forty eighth year of uninterrupted service.

Arne had the privilege of serving as Acting Director (1987-1990) and Director (1990-1995) of the Brain Research Institute during a period of economic stress—a period in which the continued existence of the Institute itself was under question. With a strong and efficient staff and a determined membership (which exceeded 200 investigators) the Institute was kept intact and innovative programs were initiated, several of which (e.g. a student-manned community outreach program now known as “Project Brainstorm,” interdisciplinary faculty meetings and seminars called “affinity groups,” etc.) still continue.

Arne’s research, stemming from his interests in both psychiatry and the neural underpinnings of behavior, has revolved about the structuro-functional basis of cognition and action. Using both neurohistological and neurophysiological techniques, his laboratory has studied the reticular core of the brain stem and thalamus, the organization of neural modules, structural correlates of aging and psychosis, and the relation between levels of cognitive activity and the patterns and richness of neuropil.