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Book Forum: Mind and Brain   |    
Companion to Clinical Neurology, 2nd ed.
Am J Psychiatry 2004;161:772-772. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.161.4.772
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Baltimore, Md.

By William Pryse-Phillips. New York, Oxford University Press, 2003, 1,128 pp., $125.00.

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Ever wonder who Paul Ferdinand Schilder was, he who described the Schilder variant of multiple sclerosis, characterized by the presence of dementia? What about Maffucci syndrome, or the "cover test"? Why is Charcot often referred to as the father of modern neurology, when in fact he was a psychiatrist? Who was the first to describe ataxic cerebral palsy? (It was Sigmund Freud.)

Answers to these questions, and 15,000 more, can be found in Companion to Clinical Neurology, an outstanding volume authored by William Pryse-Phillips of Memorial University in Newfoundland, Canada. In a world where, and at a time when, scholarly works of this sort are very rare, Professor Pryse-Phillips has recently published this second edition of one of his life’s works. It is perhaps the most complete compilation of clinical terms, historical anecdotes, diagnostic tests, and brief biographies of relevance to clinical neurology, a cross between a dictionary and an encyclopedia of the highest quality scholarship. The book is an alphabetical compilation of entries from the most minute (almost trivial at times) to the most relevant, each providing definition of a term, clinical description of a phenomenon, or salient aspects of a biography. It has received rave reviews in the world of neurology and, on my brief trip to the Amazon.com web site, was almost sold out there.

The only question is the extent to which this book might be of interest to psychiatrists. Small but notable omissions are entries for schizophrenia, bipolar illness, melancholia, or other conditions or terms most often seen by psychiatrists, many of them brain diseases. Over the 2-month period that I had the book in my hands, while I was preparing this review, there were no occasions on which I found reason to consult it for clinical, research, or teaching activities. Since my work is focused on neuropsychiatry, the interface between psychiatry and neurology, I suspect that this was a good test of its utility, or lack thereof, to most psychiatrists. Despite this, given the sheer volume of information it contains and the intellectual stimulation that it provides, many colleagues in psychiatry, especially those with a more scholarly or academic bent, will find this volume satisfying to own, leaf through, or consult from time to time, if not out of clinical necessity, at least out of sheer curiosity.




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