Constantin Alexander Von Economo

Economo, Constantin Alexander Von


(Baron von San Serff). Born Aug. 21, 1876, in Braila; died Oct. 21, 1931, in Vienna. Austrian neurologist of Greek descent.

Economo graduated from the University of Vienna medical school in 1901 and became a professor of neurology and psychiatry there in 1921. During World War I he served first as a pilot and then as an army medical officer.

In 1902, Economo discovered the swallowing and chewing centers of the brain. In 1917 he described epidemic encephalitis lethargica (Economo’s disease), and on the basis of clinical and anatomical studies on the disease he determined the significance of the hypothalamus and thalamus in insomnia and advanced a theory of sleep.

In 1925, Economo published a book (with G. N. Koskinas) and an atlas on the cytoarchitectonics of the cerebral cortex. He compiled a precise cytoarchitectonic map of the cerebral cortex (109 areas) and measured the size of cells in the various cortical layers. Based on cytoarchitectonic research and the study of human fossil skulls, he put forth the theory of progressive cerebration, according to which the brain develops continuously, advancing to a higher stage of development. In 1931 he opened a special department for the study of the brain, mainly its cytoarchitectonics and myeloarchitectonics.

Economo became president of the Vienna Psychoanalytical Society in 1928. A pioneer in Austrian aviation, he became president of an aviation club in 1910.


Die Cytoarchitektonik der Hirnrinde des erwachsenen Menschen. Vienna-Berlin, 1925. (With G. N. Koskinas.)
Zellaufbau der Grosshirnrinde des Menschen. Berlin, 1927.
Die Encephalitis lethargica. Berlin-Vienna, 1929.


Stransky, E. “Constantin von Economo.” In Grosse Nervenärzte, vol. 2. Stuttgart, 1959.