Brenda Milner: biography of this neuropsychologist
Brenda Milner is a reference in neuropsychology, having devoted herself to it for more than 70 years.
Who is Brenda Milner? Why has this woman been so important for the development of psychology, and even more, of neuropsychology? What has her life been like? What have been her most relevant contributions?
In this article we answer all these questions; we will make a brief review of the life of this researcher through this biography of Brenda Milnera pioneer in scientific research.
Who is Brenda Milner?
Brenda Milner is a Canadian neuropsychologist, who was born in Manchester (United Kingdom) on July 15, 1918, at the height of the First World War. Milner worked until she was 90 years old, and is now 101 years old.
Milner has become a key figure in the field of psychology, especially for his contributions to scientific research, where he has conducted several studies focused on clinical neuropsychology. One of his outstanding investigations explored the interaction between the right and left hemispheres of the brain..
For many, Brenda Milner is considered the founder of neuropsychology. Let us recall that neuropsychology is the discipline that integrates the knowledge of neurology with that of psychology; it deals with the study of possible lesions or damage to our central nervous system, and how these affect psychological and cognitive processes (e.g. attention, memory, behavior...).
On the other hand, neuropsychology also studies the different diseases that the nervous system may have, in addition to neurodevelopmental disorders.
Continuing with Brenda's biography, beyond research, this scientist has been passionate about teaching.. She worked at McGil University in Montreal as a professor, specifically in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery. She also worked as a professor, in this case of psychology, at the Montreal Neurological Institute.
Recognitions and awards.
Brenda Milner has been widely recognized for her scholarly and professional contributions, and can boast of having received more than 20 honorary doctorates..
In addition, it is worth noting an award she received in 2014, thanks to her discovery of brain networks specialized in cognition and memory. The award, which was the "Kavli Prize in Neuroscience", he received together with two other researchers: Marcus E. Raichle (American neurologist) and John O'Keefe (British-American neuroscientist and psychologist).
Origin and childhood
Brenda Milner's original name, prior to her marriage, was Brenda Langford.. Brenda was born into a family with a passion for music.
Brenda's father, Samuel Langford, was a journalist, teacher and music critic, and her mother, Née Leslie Doig, was a student singer. Soon, however, Brenda would move away from her parents' musical heritage and embark on her journey as a scientist.
The same year of her birth, in 1918 and when she was only 6 months old, Brenda and her mother contracted the "Influenza Pandemic". It was the most severe pandemic in recent history, causing between 20 and 40 million deaths. Fortunately, Brenda and her mother survived the disease.
As for her education, Brenda's father instructed her, until the age of 8, in mathematics, German and arts. Later, the first school Brenda Milner attended was "Withington Girls School", and later, in 1936, she entered "Newnham College" (Cambridge), thanks to a scholarship she obtained to study mathematics.
It is important to note that, at that time, Brenda Milner was one of only 400 women admitted to Newnham College in 1936. was one of only 400 women admitted to this highly prestigious school..
So Brenda's journey began with mathematics, but, some time later, realizing that "it wasn't her thing," Brenda changed and decided to study psychology. She graduated as a psychologist in 1939; specifically, she obtained a degree in experimental psychology.
One of her outstanding tutors was Oliver Zangwill, a very influential British neuropsychologist.. It was through him that he "inherited" an interest in studying how the brain works and how brain injuries can affect it.
And then... Canada
After graduating with a degree in psychology, Brenda Milner received another scholarship. This time to continue studying psychology, at Cambridge University. However, World War II broke out, and she and some of her colleagues were enlisted in the collective effort.
At first, they worked helping to design psychological tests for fighter pilots.. It was there that she met her future husband, Peter Milner, who was an electrical engineer.
Brenda and Peter married in 1944, and then moved to Canada. Once there, Brenda began working at the University of Montreal, as a professor of psychology. There she pursued her scientific career and continued her passion for research.
She also started her Ph, she began her doctorate, in 1950, together with Dr. Donald Hebbin his department at McGill University. It should be noted that Donald O. Hebb, neuropsychologist, is today considered the initiator of biopsychology.
In 1952, Brenda Milner received her doctorate from the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI).. Her research focused on the study of patients suffering from epilepsy, and on the intellectual effects of different types of damage to the temporal lobe.
After obtaining her doctorate, Brenda continued at the MNI, under the orders of Wilder Penfield, a neurosurgeon specialized in the study of different brain tissues and their functions.
Psychology: moral or science?
One of Brenda Milner's greatest contributions to the field of psychology was to distance this science from morality and science. to move this science away from morality and closer and closer to scientific knowledge.. Before his arrival, psychology was considered as a moral knowledge, and not so much a scientific one.
That is, through psychology, people's behavior was judged as "good" or "bad", according to a series of values, but it was not taken into account that sometimes certain brain or neuronal lesions could influence people's behavior. With Milner all this changed, and psychology began to be considered more as a scientific than a moral knowledge.
What Brenda Milner did was, fundamentally, to promote knowledge and research in neuropsychology. Through this branch of psychology, which relates the physiology of the brain to cognitive and mental functions. Milner demonstrated how neurology and psychology had much more in common than previously thought. than previously thought.
Enthusiast for life
Brenda Milner is still working today, and when she turned 100, an honorary symposium was dedicated to her for her birthday. Brenda's quote that day, and the one we're sticking with, was: ''Everything continues to be a wonderful adventure. I continue to enjoy every minute of it''.
To this day, Brenda is one of the most valued women scientists in psychology, and especially in neuropsychology, for her contributions, her doses of humility, vitality and hard work.
- Benavente, R. (2019). Brenda Miller, the neuropsychologist who helped eliminate the moral idea from psychology. Women with science.
- McDevitt, N. (2007). Brenda Milner: Making a little noise when she walks. McGill Reporter, 40(8).
- Milner, B (1954). Intellectual function of the temporal lobes. Psychological Bulletin 51 (1): 42-62.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)