Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Scientific Legacy: Behavioral Pharmacology

With the death of Joseph V. Brady at the end of July 2011, many tributes have been pronounced and continue to be made throughout this year.  Joe was a major figure in post-WWII psychology and neuroscience.  As a post-doctoral fellow with Joe fifty years ago, his passing has provided the occasion to give a good deal of thought to the time I worked with him at the University of Maryland in College Park.  Joe Brady’s own scientific publications are remarkable for their importance in their own right.  He was one of the founders of physiological psychology, now called neuroscience.  He was a founder of the field of behavioral pharmacology, the scientific study of the behavioral actions of drugs.  He was one of the first Board members of the Society for the Exprimental Analysis of Behavior and it's hallmark journal.  Perhaps the most remarkable legacy Joe Brady has been the wide range of careers he has launched, directly and indirectly. 
Joseph V. Brady
I learned an enormous amount from working with Joe Brady.  I learned about science, of course, but I learned much more about strategy of doing science.  Among the more important lessons were: (1) surround yourself with the brightest, most talented people you can find and don’t be threatened by anyone; (2) give them enough support to do their work, but not too much.. they should be a little hungry, (3) encourage unorthodox ideas and don't dump on people for trying out novel extrapolations of theory, (4) exploit the basic principles of functional scientific analysis and ignore people's disciplinary backgrounds as long as they are effective in their work, and (5) let your science do the talking.
Bob Schuster 2010
Bob Schuster was Joe Brady's graduate student while I was a post-doctoral fellow sharing the laboratory.  The two of us collaborated on one of the first compelling animal models of opiate addictive behavior, which led eventually to adoption in a simplified form throughout the world.  In 1964 and 65 Bob (Charles R.) Schuster and I wrote the first textbook in the field Joe helped establish, Behavioral Pharmacology.   Not long ago I ran across a type written leather bound copy in a used bookstore that I had used to teach the first behavioral pharmacology course to one of the first groups of graduate students at the University of Minnesotan (pictured here), before the published version was available.  I wanted to try it out to see how well it was received, and whether it would have any impact on the fledgling graduate students.
Leather Bound Pre-Publication Copy of Behavioral Pharmacology
Among the first students to read the type written manuscript were Richard A. Meisch, John G. Grabowski and George E. Bigelow, who later in each of their own right have gone on to be leaders in behavioral pharmacology and addiction.  At about the time the book was published by Prentice Hall in 1968, Roland R. Griffiths was among the group of new students to this nascent field.  Roy W. Pickens, recently from Mississippi where he had completed his doctoral training joined us and reacted to the new book.  He later went on to a leadership role at the National Institute on Drug Abuse.  Others who became well known after serving as test subjects for our book, included pharmacologist Sheldon Sparber, Don Cherek and James E. Smith, who became a pharmacology department chair.  Psychiatrist and pharmacologist Richard Meisch has been involved in an addiction research center at the Univeristy of Texas, Houston, as was John Grabowski until a year or so ago.  George Bigelow and Roland Griffiths went to work with Joe Brady at Johns Hopkins after leaving Minnesota.  Many others followed, including David B. Gray, Alice M. Young, Jack Henningfield, David Penetar, Alan Poling, Deborah Slechta, Patrick Beardsley, Thomas Kelly, Michael Nader, Carolyn Cohen, and David Jewett, making significant contributions to the field.  Their names are familiar to anyone in the field for their important work.

In his generous Forward to our book Joe Brady wrote, “This volume bears eloquent testimony to the emerging promise of wedding of scientific disciplines” endeavors to which Bob Schuster and I devoted most of our professional lives.  Joe taught us well, indeed and Bob and I took his teaching to heart.  That our field has lost both Joe Brady and Bob Schuster this past year is deeply saddening, but their work lives on in those who had the wonderfully good fortune to profit from their wisdom, which I suppose is as much legacy for which one might hope.  

1 comment:

  1. An addendum: Joe Brady understood the importance of putting your best foot forward during a site visit to your laboratory by a team of fellow researchers who were evaluating a grant application. He told us to make sure our desk calendar was on the current date and the mold had been washed out of our coffee cup so it would be clear we had actually been in our office within the last month. “I want to see graphs of your best data on the wall long-side your relay rack,” he reminded us. As he walked up and down inspecting those of us who were wet behind the ears. in preparation for a pending site visit he said, “You need to polish your shoes and wear a blue suit, and if you don’t have a blue suit, turn on a blue light!” Joe’s facetious pragmatism was famous.