[Art_beyond_sight_theory_and_research] Jacques Le Magnen
fnugg at online.no
fnugg at online.no
Mon Dec 29 10:15:29 UTC 2014
Read about Jacques Le Magnen in Gary Taube's Good Calories, Bad
Calories. In anycase if you are not familiar with this scientist am
sending a link. He became blind at the age of 13.
One of the pioneers in research on olfaction and taste, and on the
regulation of water and food intake left us on Thursday, May 23, 2002,
at the age of 85. Jacques Le Magnen was a disciple of the famous French
physiologist Henri Piéron at the Collège de France, and from 1949 till
1989 developed his own laboratory of sensory and behavioral
neurophysiology in this same renowned institution.
His early work was dedicated to the study of olfaction, and more
especially (but not only!) to the influence of hormonal status and
particularly sex hormones on variations in olfactory sensitivity. The
originality of his approach and the precision of his experiments,
executed with very primitive olfactometry, immediately assured him a
position as one of the leading personalities in the field of olfaction.
He always retained a keen interest in olfaction and was a mentor to many
young scientists, both in and outside his laboratory, who wanted to
study olfactory phenomena, even when the main orientation of his work
shifted towards the study of the regulation of food and water intake. To
this latter field of research he made a number of invaluable contributions.
Beginning in 1950, Jacques Le Magnen put forward a series of
revolutionary concepts. His ideas have inspired and still inspire
generations of scientists. He was the first to develop instruments that
made it possible to register food and water intake in the rat across the
whole 24 h day, and to show how the behavior and its determinants change
under the influence of circadian cycles. During the phase of activity
(the night in the rat), intake permits the build up ofbodily reserves
which will be used in the resting phase, during which consumption is
reduced to a minimum. This day/night alternation is one of the
cornerstones of energetic and hydromineral regulation. During the daily
active period, meals alternate with fasting in response to metabolic
signals that are generated by the acquisition of the ingesta and by the
composition of bodily reserves. In all this, the role of the sensory
characteristics of food, olfactory of course, but also gustatory and
visual, was not forgotten. In what he called `learning of palatability',
Jacques Le Magnen showed how the sensory characteristics of food
transform themselves into a complex conditioned stimulus that guides
behavior, permits the formation of food preferences and aversions, and
determines the size of a meal depending on the anticipated metabolic
consequences of ingestion. Furthermore, his laboratory confirmed that
the same sensory and metabolic factors also function in humans.
Finally, he was also interested in problems concerning human alcohol
consumption, and in order to study them he created an animal model that
was addicted to ethanol which he used during 30 years of research.
Jacques Le Magnen continued to publish scientific work right to the end
of his life. His bibliography can be found in his last invited
publication in an international journal, entitled `My scientific life:
40 years at the Collège de France' (2001, /Neurosci. Biobehav. Rev./,
25: 375--394). Thus, the richness of his ideas and his enormous
knowledge of the fields that were important to him are readily available.
Jacques Le Magnen also played an important role in the organization of
research. As a Research Director of the Centre National de Recherche
Scientifique and of the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, he played an
important role in the evaluation of research and scientific development
in France. As co-founder and first president of the European
Chemoreception Research Organization, he had a lasting impact on the
development of the coordination of chemo-sensory research in the world.
But above all, his students and all those who have known him will
remember him by his exceptional courage and dedication to science. At
the age of 13 he contracted an encephalitis, as a result of which he
lost his eyesight. His blindness, however, did not stop him from
pursuing a scientific career characterized by brilliant ideas and
experiments. He was an indefatigable worker, a true scholar and a lover
of refined music. His intellectual activity did not end with his
retirement from the Collège de France in 1989 and he continued to write
to the last.
His students and his friends were always struck by his phenomenal
scientific and encyclopedic memory. Jacques Le Magnen knew everything:
who had demonstrated what, by what means and under what circumstances.
The most astonishing feats of this memory were his lively and very
visual descriptions of cities he had visited, but of course had never
seen directly. He saw these cities through the eyes of Madame Le Magnen,
his admirable and devoted companion, who was always at his side wherever
Jacques Le Magnen was Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur and Doctor
Honoris Causa of the Universties of Lausanne and Utrecht.
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