As noted above, well before the formation of I.S.N., neurochemistry had had representation in the meetings of organizations such as the Mental Health Research Fund (M.H.R.F.) established in 1949, the World Federation of Neurology (W.F.N.), established in the mid 1950s, and the International Brain Research Organization (I.B.R.O.) from the early 1960s. The M.H.R.F. had as its first secretary a neurochemist (Derek Richter) and a neurochemist (Heinrich Waelsch) was the first Treasurer of I.B.R.O. and subsequently its Secretary. The W.F.N. formed a Commission of Neurochemistry in 1959, of which the first Secretary was the Belgian neurochemist, Armand Lowenthal. These societies had thus an active neurochemical input, which is reflected perhaps in the initiative for the first I.S.N. conference in Strasbourg (1967) emerging from a joint meeting between the Provisional Organizing Committee of I.S.N. and the W.F.N. Commission of Neurochemistry.

So the birth of I.S.N. had M.H.R.F., I.B.R.O. and W.F.N. as enthusiastic mid-wives!

With this history of generous support from these world bodies, the newly-formed I.S.N. seems to have been curiously reluctant to encourage regional neurochemical activities in various parts of the world. During a N.A.T.O. conference in Milan in September 1970, there were sufficient members of the I.S.N. Council present to hear representations from Alan Davison and Brian Ansell on behalf of the British Neurochemical Group (established in 1967 - see Bachelard, 1988) and from the representatives of the Swedish-Italian Neurochemical Group (Hyden & Paoletti), suggesting the formation of some form of a European neurochemical group or society. The I.S.N. Council actively discouraged any such development, even though the newly-formed American Society (A.S.N.) was flourishing. Then in 1971 Roger Marchbanks and Alan Davison made a formal written proposal for a federal structure for neurochemical societies, with I.S.N. remaining as the main focal point for meetings and international activities, but also acting as the central co-ordinating body. The view of the I.S.N. Council was against federation because it felt it "could inhibit development of neurochemistry in less well developed countries and that single individuals would be cut off from participating in the activities of I.S.N.". This appeals as an eminently reasonable view, but there is no record in reports or minutes of any further debate or discussion. Indeed the only relevant comment in the minutes at that time was a refusal to consider nomination of a candidate for membership of I.S.N., because "neurochemistry was not of sufficiently high quality in his country". This reads now as quite odd in view of the above stated support for individuals. In a letter sent by the Secretary to members of I.S.N. Council, dated Dec. 22, 1970, he argued against federation, and the formation of regional societies, with the comment that "at the time neurochemistry has not reached the degree of development at which the establishment of a European society would be realistic". This gives some idea of the parochialism of the time (long since disappeared), when the majority of the early International Neurochemical Symposia had been held in Europe and initiated by Europeans (11 of the first 16, Table 1), when over 40% of the papers published in J.Neurochem. came from that part of the world and from where at least half of the elected I.S.N. officers had originated (Table 3). Indeed of the 24 papers published in the first volume of the journal, 11 were from the U.S.A. and Canada, with 13 from European contributors. The I.S.N. Council minutes of the time recorded opposition to formation of regional societies, but set up an informal committee to "Promote Neurochemistry in Europe" consisting of Davison, Hyden, Mandel & Paoletti, to report back to the Council at the Budapest meeting in 1971. This was communicated to members in the I.S.N. Bulletin of 1970, but no further discussion is recorded in the minutes. Obviously all this resulted in mounting disquiet in the perceived accountability of the officers to the general membership and particularly in the mechanisms for nomination of the officers. Accordingly there was a considerable amount of acrimonious discussion at the General Business Meeting in 1971 in Budapest (in fact to those not directly involved it was highly entertaining), but no further action appears to have been considered then by the Council. However in the minutes of Council meetings of 1973, there was some discussion of the possibility of forming "local chapters" of I.S.N. - proposed for Canada, England, Italy, Japan, U.S.A. and the then U.S.S.R., but scrutiny of succeeding minutes reveals no further comment. Shortly after the foundation of the E.S.N. in 1976 (Bachelard, 1988), the E.S.N. Secretary submitted a further discussion paper on federation to the I.S.N. Council. In this paper the idea was advanced that neurochemistry had developed to the extent that it needed a world structure - that the I.S.N. should act as the central co-ordinating body (an "umbrella") with regions representing the Americas (A.S.N.), Europe (E.S.N.) and anticipating the formation of a "Pan-Asian" S.N. (recently formed in 1992 as the A.P.S.N.) The response of Council to this suggestion is not clear as no mention of it appears in the minutes, but shortly afterwards the I.S.N. Council approved the appointment of liaison members with E.S.N. (Alan Davison), A.S.N. (Bill Norton), E.N.A. (European Neuroscience Association, Edith Heilbronn) and the American Society for Neuroscience (Saul Berl ). 

M Aprisson F Fonnum
M. Aprison  F. Fonnum


Further activity in promoting liaison between relevant societies came in 1979 with suggestions from W.F.N. (Sir John Walton and Armand Lowenthal) that I.S.N., A.S.N. and E.S.N. might each nominate one member (with a further member nominated by W.F.N.) to serve on the Research Committee of the W.F.N. and to contribute to W.F.N.'s funds as corporate subscribing members. Copies of this correspondence are held in the Archives, but I could find no follow-up correspondence. E.S.N. held some joint symposia with W.F.N., and I.S.N.'s Clinical Committee earlier took pains to ensure clinical representation in the International Meetings, but both of these initiatives seem to have lost momentum. This is a great pity in that one of the main objectives of I.S.N. should be to contribute to the understanding and treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders. Indeed these motivations largely generated its beginnings as noted above, but seem to have been submerged in the understandable excitement of the major recent basic scientific advances in the neurosciences.