Donald B. Lindsley
Donald B. Lindsley, one of the original founders of the UCLA Brain Research Institute (BRI) and past Chair of the department of psychology, died Thursday, June 19, 2003. He was 95.
Lindsley was a brilliant scientist, a pioneer in the development and use of electrophysiological and behavioral methods in the study of arousal, attention and information processing, and his work was internationally known. He was first recruited to UCLA by Horace Magoun in 1951. With fellow professor Charles Sawyer, Lindsley and Magoun initially worked in makeshift labs at the Long Beach VA campus until the Westwood medical and health sciences research center was built. In 1959, they joined with John Douglas French and Theodore Bullock to found the BRI.
Born in Brownhelm, Ohio, Lindsley attended Wittenberg College. He earned his PhD from the University of Iowa. He later had appointments at Western Reserve Medical School, Brown University and Northwestern University, before coming to UCLA.
He was a Professor of psychology, physiology and psychiatry here at UCLA, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a charter member of the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO), the Society for Neuroscience and the American Electroencephalographic Society. He used an interdisciplinary approach in brain-behavior research to provide seminal contributions to understanding normal and abnormal functioning of the brain during sleep-wakefulness, perception, emotion, learning and development. He was one of the first to use electroencephalography to record electrical brain activity, and carried out the initial investigations of changes in the EEG in the developing brain.
“Don Lindsley's role at UCLA and in international neuroscience in some ways resembled that of the brainstem activating systems, whose understanding he did so much to promote” wrote Allen Tobin, director of BRI. “Don was one of those rare people who continually activated the people around him - students, postdocs, and colleagues - focusing attention on what was important, exciting, and relevant to the future.”
During the course of Lindsley’s career, his lab hosted 84 postdoctoral fellows and visiting scientists from more than 25 countries. He also served as mentor to 48 PhD students who completed their doctorates under his guidance. He was known for his deep commitment to students and younger colleagues, and his impact, both personal and professional, will continue to be felt by ongoing generations.
In addition to his EEG research, Lindsley was active in developing measures of human sensory processing that used computer-averaged evoked potentials to assess the influence of attentional processes on rapid electrical changes in the brain produced by significant visual effects. In landmark papers published in 1949 and 1950 with Horace Magoun at Northwestern University, Lindsley helped define brainstem-activating systems that support wakefulness and arousal. He followed this research with significant contributions to knowledge about brain mechanisms underlying emotion and attention.
Among his many awards and honors were the American Psychological Association’s Distinguished Scientific Award and the Society for Neuroscience Ralph Gerard Prize for Distinguished Contributions to Neuroscience. As an ongoing tribute to his work, the Society for Neuroscience, through the support of the Grass Foundation, awards the annual Donald B. Lindsley Prize to recognize scientific talent among young investigators. Upon Lindsley’s retirement in 1977, his work was celebrated by a major conference on “Neurophysiology and Psychology: Basic Mechanisms and Clinical Applications.” Lindsley recently donated his lifelong collection of papers, letters and meticulously-identified photographs to the UCLA Neuroscience History Archives.
For those wishing to make donations in his memory, the Lindsley family requests donations be made to the Lindsley Memorial Fund. Checks may be made to the UCLA Foundation, with the notation “Lindsley Memorial Fund,” and sent to Kenneth Hurd, Director of Neuroscience Development, UCLA Medical Science Development, 10945 Le Conte Ave, PVUB, Suite 3132, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1784 (UCLA mail code 178407).